Bedtime stories can help develop maths understanding

New research from the University of Chicago has revealed that reading stories with a focus on maths and numbers to children at bedtime can significantly improve both children’s and parents’ maths understanding.

The study gave 587 children aged 6 and 7 years old tablets featuring an app with short passages to read with their parents 4 times a week. One test group read stories which included mathematical themes, such as counting, fractions, probability and shapes. The children and their parents were then asked to discuss the stories and complete simple maths problems together.

The children were tested before and at the end of the study, and those who read the maths stories showed significant improvement in their overall mathematics learning, with some children showing as much as a three month advancement in maths achievement. The study also suggests that this sharing of stories and discussing maths with children can help parents become less anxious about the subject and develop their own understanding.

Kylie Robson, a Clinical Teaching Specialist in Mathematics and Literacy Education at University of Canberra said “The mathematical elements will naturally come into the conversation and should be encouraged – this will help children to see maths as part of everyday life. By simply including books which include mathematical concepts in night time routines, parents can feel more confident that they are contributing to the mathematical development of their child outside the classroom, at the same time as creating a less stressful environment for discussing mathematics.”

National Numeracy trustee Di Hatchett said:
“Young children are enthusiastic investigators and, as they explore their world, they are beginning to develop mathematical skills and mathematical thinking. Stories play a critical role in helping children make sense of the world around them and mathematical stories support the development of positive attitudes to maths and helps parents to engage with their learning.”

National Numeracy provides a free website to help families enjoy maths together and recently explored the use of mathematical stories in an interview with children’s author Lauren Child. National Numeracy's Family Maths Toolkit is an ideal starting point for parents who want to help their children’s maths learning & achievement.


Read the findings in full

Visit the Family Maths Toolkit

Read reseach on the benefits of parental engagement