Using Reading to Talk Math with Kids

I always like to encourage parents to read aloud with their kids and talk about what they’ve read. I’ve mentioned many social, psychological, and educational benefits of doing this. Usually when I mention educational benefits, I mention things like improving language skills and vocabulary.

But then I read a very interesting article on MindShift by Annie Murphy Paul that encourages parents to “talk math” with kids. Here’s one point in particular: Because children are building their vocabularies at a young age, talking with them about numbers makes them familiar with “number words,” which helps them be more comfortable with and interested in math once they are formally introduced to it in school.

So talking about math before kids start school helps them become familiar with basic math concepts, it gives them confidence that they can be good at it, it gives them enthusiasm for the subject, and it can even give them a little ego boost if they happen to realize they already know something their classmates are just about to learn.

Even if parents feel like they are terrible at math, the good news is that most parents are mathematical geniuses when compared to their baby/toddler/preschooler. I mean, it’s possible that your infant has an amazing gift for numbers and will soon leave you in the dust mathematically speaking, but the other good news is that all parents can give their children (geniuses or not) a mathematical start. This means talking about things like counting and drawing their attention to written numbers and little things like these.

It’s also possible to incorporate math talk into your reading time. When reading picture books with kids, let them count the number of animals (or something else) on the page…then let them count the number of animals on the next page…then ask them how many animals are on both pages…your child may not know it, but they just solved a simple addition problem. And that’s only one suggestion. What do you do to get your kids interested in numbers?