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Why Talking About Math With Kids Is Important

Do you speak math?

“Number talk” at home is a strong predictor of children’s math achievement in school, yet many parents don’t speak enough about numbers with their children. Recent studies have yielded interesting insight into how talking with young children about numbers, fractions and decimals affects their math learning later. 

One study looked at children between ages 14 and 30 months and found that some children heard as few as 24 number-related words a week while others heard 1,800 weekly. The frequency of number talk at home had a large impact on children’s understanding of basic math concepts, particularly counting and labeling sets of objects containing four to 10 objects. The ability to count and sort objects, and understand sets is an important precursor to learning math.   

Another study showed that gender is part of the equation—parents speak about numbers less with their daughters than their sons. In fact, researchers found that mothers spoke to boys about number concepts twice as often as they spoke to girls about them. The conclusion was based on recordings of mothers talking to their toddlers ages 20 to 27 months. This was significant because rapid vocabulary development is happening during those months, and making children familiar with number words during this critical time can promote an interest in math later.

So how can parents work number talk into interactions with their children? Here are some examples: 

  • Note numbers on signs when you’re walking or driving: speed limits, exit numbers, addresses, sale prices in store windows.
  • Ask children to count how many toys they’re playing with or how many books they’ve pulled out to read.
  • Use numbers when you refer to time, dates, and temperatures: How many hours and minutes until bedtime? How many weeks and days until a holiday?


See more information about these studies on number talk with young children

Posted December 08, 2016 in Research
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