Here’s an equation worth getting excited about: Talking to your kids about numbers can add up to a serious advantage when it comes to learning math later in life, according to a recent study from the University of Chicago.
The researchers found that children who grow up with regular number talk from an early age are more likely to be ahead of their classmates when they start school, says Dr. Susan Levine, a psychology professor and lead author on the study. Previous research has indicated that these types of early differences can predict later achievement.
To give your child that jumpstart, Levine suggests finding meaningful ways to incorporate numbers into everyday life. Instead of focusing only on counting or drilling numbers, engage your child with the things you encounter throughout the day. Pour out a few Cheerios on the table, for instance, and ask her to tell you how many there are. Or count both of your shoes, the plates you take out to feed the family dinner or the stairs as you climb up them.
“Talking to your children is important, even before you think they can understand what you’re saying,” Levine says. “At the beginning, they may not understand fully, but frequent talk helps children figure it out.”