Bedtime Math Stories Can Increase Kids’ Math Skills, Study Says


Children who read bedtime stories with math questions boosted their math learning skills, a new study out of the University of Chicago says.

Apart from boosting student achievement, the math stories also helped math-anxious parents become more comfortable discussing math problems at home, which in turn can further boost student progress at school.

“Structured, positive interactions around math at home can cut the link between parents’ uneasiness about math and children’s low math achievement,” the researchers conclude in their study published in the Science journal.

The researchers say that math-anxious parents are less likely to talk about math at home and might be reluctant to help their children do their math homework — something that can affect their children’s math competency. The researchers discovered that:

”Bedtime Math encourages a dialogue between parents and kids about math, and offers a way to engage in high-quality math interactions in a low-effort, high-impact way.”

Some 587 first-grade student families across the city of Chicago were given iPads with either the Bedtime Math or a reading app installed for the study’s purposes. Through the Bedtime Math app, parents and their children read stories and answered math-related questions together. The control group that received the reading comprehension app engaged with similar stories but without any math content.

The study showed that the more parents and children engaged with the app, the better the students’ academic achievement was.

For students who engaged with the app multiple times per week, the results were substantial, as they managed to outperform their peers by almost three months, the University of Chicago announced.

Even less-frequent use of the Bedtime Math app showed significant benefits. The use of the app as little as once a week resulted in math achievement gains for students as the end-of-year assessments, the researchers revealed.

But the app was particularly helpful for children with math-anxious parents or parents who were uncomfortable with math content, the Daily Mail reported.

“For many families, reading stories is a regular part of a child’s home routine. But when it comes to math, parents widely believe that it is the responsibility of schools, and they pay less attention to their child’s math learning at home,” said Susan Levine study author. “We found brief, high-quality parent-child interactions around math using Bedtime Math increased children’s math learning during first grade.”

In an interview with NPR and Eric Westervelt, the study authors highlighted the importance of integrating counting and other simple math activities in the daily routines of children because it can be beneficial for students’ math progress.

“[W]e know that parents who talk more with their kids about math — whether you’re counting out the number of cookies or counting the minutes to bedtime — those kids tend to achieve at higher rates in math.”