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Home Resource Teaching Math to Young Children for Families and Caregivers

Teaching Math to Young Children for Families and Caregivers

Teaching Math to Young Children for Families and Caregivers
These videos and activities provide families with information about how to support children as they practice math skills at home.

View and Describe the World Mathematically


You can encourage your child to look for opportunities to describe math ideas in the world around them. By exploring their environment and interacting with objects, children can begin to apply their math knowledge. For example, using physical objects can support children’s progression from verbalizing numerical representations with words such as “a lot” or “more” to counting. At first, counting of objects may not be exact, but over time children begin to count accurately–and then recognize “how many.” You can support development in these areas by offering a wide variety of experiences and materials for your child.

These videos introduce ways you can help your child view and describe the world mathematically. Following the video you will find more information and resources on three ways to view and describe the world mathematically.


Finding Math Around You

Early Childhood Math Questioning Strategies

Quick Tips, Resources and Activities

Children as young as preschoolers can learn to talk about the many strategies they invent. Modeling your approaches to problem-solving will help them to talk about their own strategies when opportunities arise.

Quick Tips:

  • Give children time to think about how to solve problems.
  • Narrate your own problem solving and ask your child for help with problems that arise throughout the day. For example, you might say “I have to figure out how many cups we are going to need for the birthday party. Can you help me? How should we do that?”


It is important to teach children math words so that they have the words needed to connect their experiences to formal terms. Math language can be used throughout the day. For example, you can make a comment about which friend is standing “first” in line or which child has “more” or “fewer” objects than another child.

Another important part of using math language is being aware of how we as parents talk about math. Many adults and children feel tension, apprehension, and fear in situations involving math–this is called math anxiety. Math anxiety is different from just not liking math. It’s a physical and mental response that can be crippling and keep you from performing at your best because your brain is spending too much energy on being anxious. Children start developing math anxiety in the early grades, and when parents and teachers have anxiety about math themselves, they can pass it on.

Quick Tips:

  • While your child is drawing pictures of his or her family, they can talk about the “number” of family members and who is “older” or “younger”.
  • Talk about your own math skills positively. Instead of saying “I’m just not a math person” or similar phrases, try “I work hard to solve math problems”.
  • If your child is struggling, say “Yes, this is challenging, but I’m confident you could work through it if you stick with it.” Avoid saying things like “It’s okay, not everyone is good at math” or “Not everyone can do these types of problems.” That kind of language can make your child think that math is too hard for them.


You can use open-ended questions to prompt your child to apply their math knowledge. Ask questions that require your child to use math-related terms to describe something. For example, asking “How can we find out [how many cups we need for dinner]?” will give your child the opportunity to communicate about a math strategy and then to practice that strategy.

Quick Tips:

  • When you ask an open-ended question, be sure to allow enough time for your child to think of an answer. If you child simply says “yes” or “no” quickly, try asking “How do you know?” to encourage further discussion and reflection on math strategies.

This information was prepared by Regional Educational Laboratories Appalachia, Central, and Northwest

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