CORAdvantage Blog Classroom Tips

Authentic Math Talk: Ways to Support Math Development At Home

By Anna Marrs | March 18, 2019

I recently read a research study called “Math At Home Adds Up To Achievement At School” published in the Journal of Science. The study looked at the impact of integrating math into young children’s bedtime routines. The study found that when parents integrated math conversation with their child into their child’s nighttime routine, even just once a week, it led to considerable improvement in math skills.

Just as significantly, children still showed this impressive progress and growth even if their parents expressed nervousness about math. While previous research has shown that parents’ own anxious feelings about math are frequently passed on to their young children, this research shows that when parents are given structured suggestions for how to talk about math with their child, all parents can help their child develop necessary math skills.

Too often, math is considered to be something that is simply “taught” at school, but this study is part of a new trend in research shedding light on the importance of the supporting math development at home. And it shows the role that schools and educators can play in ensuring parents, even those who do not feel as comfortable with math, are equipped with ways to support their child effectively.

How can teachers help parents support their child’s math development at home?

Encouraging parents to engage in authentic math conversations or activities with their children can help ensure children are set up to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond. Specifically:

1. Sharing Learning from School

The best way to support learning at home is to provide families with information about what their child does during the day. A photo of their child engaging in an activity, a lesson plan, or a sample of their child’s work can help parents see exactly what their child is working on. Regularly providing this information to parents can allow parents to have richer conversations with their child at home.

2. Suggest Opportunities for Authentic At-Home Conversations

Integrating math into daily activities can help to make math talk a part of a child’s everyday life.  Here are a few ideas to share with families:


Shopping it a great time to ask children to practice counting objects. For example, a parent can ask a child to count the number of oranges they put in the basket, or to count the number of red boxes they see on a shelf.


Driving is another great time to practice counting and shape identification. For example, a parent can ask a child to count the number of green cars they see, or the number of triangle-shaped signs.


During warmer months, gardening is a great way to integrate math and science development. Send home seeds, or encourage families to purchase a small vegetable plant. Each week, children can measure their plant to watch it grow. This will allow children to begin to use comparative measurement vocabulary words like “longer”, “taller”, and “same”.


Cooking is a great time to practice counting ingredients. For example, a parent can ask a child to count as they crack 3 eggs or fill up 2 cups with water. This is a great opportunity to build math vocabulary into everyday life by using words like “more”, “less”, and “equal”.


In addition to counting quantities for a recipe, baking is a great time to use different shape cookie cutters. Parents can ask their child what shape cookies they are making and to describe the characteristics of that shape.

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Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter

In partnership with HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter is a twice a month collection of topical research articles, tips for educators, and unique ways COR Advantage can support the documentation and communication of child development.

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COR Advantage is HighScope’s flagship observation-based assessment. COR Advantage is the leading research-backed assessment for all children from birth to kindergarten. From comprehensive planning tools to dynamic family engagement, COR Advantage offers a complete picture of child growth for schools and families.

About Anna Marrs

Anna Marrs is a former early childhood and elementary literacy curriculum developer for Bridge International Academies and a former 1st grade teacher in North Carolina. She holds a Master in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and now works on the Partnerships team at COR Advantage.