Part I: Mathematics Everyday and Everywhere
Part II: Mathematics Content for Young Children

Connections to Home

 I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. — Eleanor Roosevelt 

 “What did you do at school today?”  


 “What was your favorite part of the day?” 

 “All of it.” 

Although this is a common exchange between parents and children of all ages, it is a particularly difficult one for the parent of a young child in preschool or kindergarten. Early childhood educators are masters at communicating about a child’s learning experiences with parents through one-on-one conversations, newsletters, bulletin boards, blogs, parent nights, and so on, but that may not be enough for some parents. Parents are, invariably, their child’s first teachers and often want to continue in that role during their child’s introduction to schooling. Parents are anxious about their child’s well-being and success in their early years, and want to support their child at home; yet their beliefs and understanding about what children should be learning may conflict with what content is appropriate and the active ways that children learn.  

Providing parents with a few activity ideas each week can help them recognize the mathematics that is all around them in their own daily routines and their child’s play. For example, parents can help children notice the shapes of traffic signs, count the stairs going up and count them going down, help count or measure ingredients for snacks or in baking, provide different bottles and containers in the bathtub, or point to the rules for sorting and putting away the laundry.  

There are countless activities that parents and children can do at home. There are a number of examples in the articles in this chapter that will help you point out the opportunities that parents have to support their child’s thinking through everyday routines and simple activities (see Burton and Baum 2009; Fernandez 2008; Kritzer 2007). Other take-home activities that support the curriculum as intended through hands-on and active engagement will help children gain additional mathematical experiences and can also help parents become familiar with the philosophy and expectations for early mathematics learning.  

Communicating with families and helping them foster a love of mathematics learning at home is essential. Many activities can be shared with parents, including learning about shapes and spatial reasoning through art activities, block play, and puzzles; measurement through cooking, bath time, and sand play; data through chore records and sorting collections; and counting and number through activities such as playing board games, counting money, and exploring children’s literature and songs that emphasize counting (Hansen 2005).  

In addition, board and card games often make a remarkable difference in ensuring children receive the repeated experiences they need for many early number concepts. Traditional games that involve finding matching cards or pairs (e.g., Concentration and Go Fish) can be used or adapted (Kline 1999). Many of these early games have the potential for extension as children’s mathematical understandings grow. For example, a target number of 5 can become 10 when children are ready for more of a challenge. Prompted by handouts to get them started, parents can play games such as “Turn Over 5” (or 10), “Guess My Number,” and “Race to 20” with their children. Providing parents with response sheets lets you collect feedback on the games they found useful and also keeps the lines of communication open between home and classroom. 

Teachers might also consider sending home kits or backpack activities. Kits can include inexpensive items such as buttons, craft sticks, and paper clips that can be used with a range of activities for sorting, patterning, counting, comparing, and measuring. You might even consider giving homework that includes active investigations in which parents and children engage in mathematics together—activities such as counting the number of steps from one room of the house to another (Seo and Bruk 2003). While the learning that occurs at home is important, so are the interactions between teachers and parents as parents share their observations of their children’s learning.  

Inviting parents into the classroom is also an important way to open the channels of communication. Parents may come in as volunteers to help with small group activities or to describe how they use numbers in their work, or, as Gear (2012) describes, teachers may ask parents to provide an orientation to their community, and then develop mathematical activities that are responsive to the cultural heritage of the residents. This not only demonstrates respect but also shows the relevancy of mathematics to everyday life. Involving families in the mathematical experiences of their children provides an important opportunity to extend learning out of the classroom and into the home. Providing parents with suggestions of games and activities for their children that develop children’s early mathematical thinking through hands-on and engaging activities can also spark parents’ curiosity and reignite a sense of mathematics wonder about the world around them.