Article / Published Jan 25, 2016

Add Some Math to Your Bedtime Routine

Most parents know they are supposed to read with their children every day. They hear it constantly. And it’s true. When an adult reads to a child or listens as a child reads aloud, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get some personal time together while learning new things and developing critical language skills. Plus reading with kids is fun. If you want ideas on how to do it well, Doug Lemov is your guy.

You don’t hear parents talk about doing math problems with their children very often. Yuck. Math is homework. Math is confusing. Math is not interesting, like stories. It conjures an image of a parent and child holding pencils and worksheets while sitting on a bed, scribbling away with clenched faces. Who wants that? Pass the Harry Potter, please.


Keep reading with your kids. But start doing math with them too. Every night. Why?

1) It’s easy.

There are lots of free, simple options. My favorite is Bedtime Math. Sign up and get an email to your phone each day with an interesting fact (like how fast a cheetah can run) and a couple of problems. Or download the app and have access to the problems anytime.

2) It’s fun.

The problems are just challenging enough to be engaging without being so difficult that kids wrinkle their noses. No paper or pencil required. There’s pattern recognition, addition and subtraction, and basic quantitative reasoning. Questions are differentiated for kids of different ages so you can ask a just-right version for your child.

3) It really helps them.

A University of Chicago study recently published in Science Magazine found that kids who used Bedtime Math gained about three months of math learning per year – a big benefit for something that only takes a few minutes per day.

4) It helps you, too.

Many parents shy away from doing math with their children because they aren’t confident in their own skills. Supports like Bedtime Math can be especially useful in those cases. The study found benefits even for parents who aren’t comfortable with math. You don’t have to be a math whiz.

My kids are four and six years old. Once they got in the habit of doing Bedtime Math along with their bedtime stories, they wouldn’t go to sleep without it. Sometimes during dinner, they ask me for a preview of what that night’s problems will be about. Or they’ll try to make up their own problems for one another. Just like reading stories, math has become something we do together… for fun.

Give it some thought. Here are three other options for inexpensive ways to do math with your kids at home.

  • Do it yourself. Doug Lemov does “math chains” with his kids. Any parent can do these in the car, on a walk, or before bed. They require kids to think through a series of simple calculations, starting with one number. It’s like mental math hopscotch. For example, He’ll say to his daughter: “13. [Pause]. Double it. [Pause]. Minus 7. [Pause]. Plus 21. [Pause]. In half.” And then she gives the answer: 20! Read here for more of Doug’s ideas.
  • Math Is Fun can be a good option for basic counting and number games. There is a free version available for Apple and Android devices.
  • Teach Me: Kindergarten has some nice activities for basic addition and subtraction. Cost is only about $2 at the Apple App Store.