Let’s Talk Numbers! - The Benefits of Math Talk

Autumn: the air becomes brisker with each passing day, you see leaves falling to the ground, and then, you notice a pile of leaves by your front door.  Your daughter is standing next to you.  You ask, “how many leaves are on the ground?”  She counts them.  “10”, she says.  You have your son pick up  6 leaves, you ask, “how many are there now?” — “4!”, they exclaim.  

You’ve just engaged in “math talk”.

Numbers are everywhere.

It seems simple, maybe even odd at first, asking your 4 and 5 year old to add and subtract leaves — to count quantities of marshmallows around the campfire on your autumn vacation.  To create small, math word problems.  But these daily activities, 5-10 minutes a day, can help build your child’s number sense.   

Number sense is an intuitive understanding of what numbers are, how they work, and what you can do with them.  With number sense, your child will have the ability to understand the relationship between one number to another number.  Your children will have the ability to use numbers flexibly in order to arrive at the conclusion.  They will be able to perform mental math calculations quickly, and will be better at visualizing problem solving.

“Number talk” or “math talk” is a way of engaging your children in mathematics every day.  It can come in many forms.  We know it can be difficult to begin integrating these math talks into your daily routine.  So, please click here for some ideas on how to add math into your everyday life.  

However, this particular blog serves to answer the question,


Why talk math?  As Kevin Hartnett from the Boston Globe so eloquently put it:

“Reading bedtime stories is now considered as much a part of a parent’s responsibilities as encouraging teeth-brushing.  What if we did the same thing with math?”

Bedtime reading with your child is undeniably beneficial, and is practiced by parents worldwide.  The same is also true for math.  Deborah Stipek, a professor of education at Stanford University says, “We’re about 25 years behind in math.  I think we can use some of the same strategies that worked with reading”.  According to Hartnett, bedtime reading is perhaps one of the most practiced strategies in the early childhood literacy movement.  It strengthens both your child’s interest and abilities in the area of literacy. A positive association is made, and a skill is practiced.  

What if we told you that practicing math daily can also lead to better reading levels later on?  Engaging in math-strengthening activities positively affects future literacy levels.

Math talks engage your child in a process which strengthens cognitive abilities, such as focus and logical reasoning.  These vital skills affect other areas of educational development.  Additionally, math can develop an active imagination, inventiveness, and persistence — all extremely valuable characteristics.  The benefits of integrating mathematics into your everyday life will have a lifelong impact.

So, the question on your mind now is probably,


In addition to the tips we’ve provided, there are countless other ways to integrate math into your child’s everyday life.  Take the example of the autumn leaves on the ground, this example can be switched out to include many different interests.  This is crucial: a primary purpose of math talk is not only to strengthen number sense, but also to build a positive association to mathematics.  What are your child’s interests?  Does your son or daughter enjoy cooking?  

Bake some cookies together, and have your child measure the ingredients.  Have them add ingredients together, and engage in the process —”If we’ve added two tablespoons of sugar to the cookie batter, and we need 4 tablespoons, how many more do we need?”  Ask your child how they arrived at the answer — even if your little ones don’t get the answer right, engage with them, and arrive at the conclusion together.  It is important not to overdo the number talk — it is about short conversations, involving numbers — Letting your child see and explain how numbers work.  

You can also collect something as a family — a rock collection, marbles, stamps, coins —something your child has an interest in.  Play with the quantities, together.


This is really the key.  At DragonBox, engagement is behind everything we do.  As parents and teachers, we see the effect that math talk has in empowering your children.  When you engage your children in math talk, you’re participating in active learning.  You are giving them the tools they need to become logical thinkers, problem solvers, and creative minds.  

Having a “learning moment” with your child is a wonderful experience.  Math talk is one of the best ways to achieve these “learning moments”.   

All it takes is just 10 minutes a day.  

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