Add ‘mathing’ to your child’s bedtime routine

Becky and Bob Barnes, Mathnasium Rockwall

(December 28, 2012) We all know we should read to our kids. But even if bedtime stories are routine in your house, you might consider “mathing” with your children as well.  A few minutes spent in the evening talking about numbers and the part numbers play in life could prevent a struggle with math in their future.

Many parents view math with dread, not something that would make a good bedtime activity. But you can show your children that playing math games or doing puzzles can be as much fun as reading Goodnight Moon.  With most younger children, a “worksheet” approach would probably not be an enjoyable activity.  However, with a little imagination, bedtime can become a time of fun as well as learning.  Here are a few tips.

  • Talk about their favorite animals (horses, dogs, cats, etc) and how many legs, eyes or ears they have.  Ask, “If a dog has 4 legs, how many legs would 2 (or 3, 4, etc.) dogs have?”  This introduces grouping which is vital to the understanding of multiplication, division and other basic number concepts.
    • Using a toy to demonstrate, ask them, “If you see 12 legs how many dogs would there be?”  Help them to understand there is a relationship between those numbers.
    • For an introduction to ratios and proportions, talk with your child about how the number of ears their pet has relates to the number of legs on their pet.  So, “if there are 2 ears on a dog that has 4 legs, how many legs would there be if you saw 4 ears?”
    • Use coins to play money games with your child.  (It is always better to use real money.)  You can reinforce the concept of grouping by arranging coins to show the relationships between the different denominations.  Teach them to make change by “selling” them a piece of candy and giving them change for their payment.  Math puzzles and games are also a great way to finish the day and have a positive interaction with math.  At your local store you will find inexpensive books filled with great and interesting puzzles that will give your child a better understanding of numbers and their relationships.
    • Dominoes and dice are great manipulatives you can use to help your child enjoy math.  Begin with games where they have to put matching numbers of dots together or match the number of dots with the corresponding numeral.  Then progress to games in which dice are used so that they have to add the dots in order to move a game piece around the board.
    • Take 12 of anything and play a game by grouping the items in as many ways as possible
      (1 group of 12, 2 groups of 6, 3 groups of 4, 4 groups of 3, 6 groups of 2, and 12 groups of 1.)  This will help them visualize the different ways numbers and/or items can be grouped.  This is what multiplication and division are all about.  Make it fun!

These early years are the ideal time to build a foundation of “number sense” in an enjoyable and interactive way.  By “mathing” with your child, you can help prepare him or her for success in school.

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By Bob and Becky Barnes with Mathnasium Learning Center, located at 919 E. Interstate 30, Suite 126 in Rockwall. Email them at  or visit  


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