We’re already teaching our kids math at home!!

I found this helpful graphic on the everyday mathematics website of University of Chicago. What I learned from the graphic is that children develop their understanding of abstract ideas (such as a math sentence) through concrete, verbal and pictorial representations. What this means in practice is that teaching math through every day normal experiences with your children is a very good idea and may even be the best way to learn math! Let me give you an example.


My daughter is 5 years old. She doesn’t even realize we do math, but was very excited when I explained the graphic and talked her through our math experience of tonight.

Joelle wanted cookies after dinner. I told her to go ahead and bake three for herself and three for her brother. I asked her, how many total cookies are you going to bake? She counted it up and got to six.

She measured out the dough. We baked cookies. We distracted ourselves with something else while we waited. Beep beep! Cookies were ready. We let them cool. Then, Joelle ate her cookies… and her brother’s cookies too, because he didn’t want them.

At bedtime, I showed her this graphic and explained it to her, giving the cookies as an example.

You see, Joelle had a concrete connection to the cookies. She physically counted them out. She made two rows of three so she would remember whose cookies were whose. Good job grouping, Joelle! (3 for you, 3 for me)

She also had a verbal experience with the cookies, both when I asked her how many total she would make, and then later when I asked her how many she had made for each of them and how many total she ate. She thought she ate all of them, but I had one. I didn’t correct her.

In the morning, we will review the math sentence by creating a pictorial representation of the now famous six cookies.

Tonight, I already helped her write out the math sentence with number symbols, but we can do it again in the morning with our portrait of six delicious cookies.

If she were ready for it, I could have given her a multiplication problem by telling her to make three cookies two times, and then a division problem by asking her to divide her cookies by two people… or maybe a surprise third person who wanted cookies. (Daddy! We forgot him!)

Even if I hadn’t guided her to make the math sentence in symbols, she would have still been developing her understanding of how numbers are connected, how they work, what they represent, and how to manipulate them to figure out what you want to know. Mathematics of the real world, everyday* experience for the win!


*We do not eat cookies every day. I’m pretty sure.

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