Bringing maths into bedtime stories can help children learn – and make the subject less scary for parents too


Kylie Robson, University of Canberra

As parents, we know how important it is to read to our children. Many families include this as a regular part of the bedtime routine.

While we feel confident this is contributing to our child’s literacy development,
new research shows that this nightly routine could also be used to help improve maths skills.

How reading can help your child learn maths

The study by researchers in the US gave 587 students in year 1 (between 6 and 7 years old) tablets featuring an app with short passages to read with their parents.

Parents would read these passages with their child and then answer questions based on the text. Families used the app on average 4 times a week between the Autumn and Spring of 2013-14.

One group read stories which contained a mathematical focus, which allowed children and their parents to discuss maths in a natural way and complete simple problems together.

Each passage came with five questions ranging in difficulty from preschool to fifth-grade level and covered topics including counting and arithmetic, fractions, geometry and probability.

There was also an additional bank of questions for families who wished to explore the passage further. Families could complete as many questions as they were comfortable with after reading the story.

A second, comparison group read the same passage with the specific maths content removed and answered questions which focused on recalling facts, inferring information and spelling.

The results were overwhelming.

The students were tested before and at the end of the study and those who read the maths stories, adapted from the Bedtime Math app, showed significant improvement in their overall mathematics learning during the year.

When comparing the children in each group who used the app most frequently, the study saw a three month advancement in maths achievement for those who read the maths-focused stories.

Helping parents boost their confidence in maths

Research shows that parents tend to place more importance on language learning than on mathematical development when their children are young. A reason for this could be that parents don’t feel as comfortable with teaching maths, compared to literacy.

But research shows that when parents are stressed about maths, their children learn less mathematics over the school year and can also develop the same negative feelings towards the subject.

Children who feel anxious about maths are also less likely to engage in the classroom and will avoid mathematical tasks.

This avoidance leads to missed learning opportunities and a greater sense of potential failure.

Once the cycle has begun, it can be hard to redirect this momentum.

While the research focused on stories designed for an electronic device, the findings highlight some key points for parents.

Sharing stories with a mathematical focus, and the discussions which are then created, can contribute to an increase in achievement at school.

For parents who are struggling with their own mathematical anxieties, this comes as welcome news. The study goes on to suggest that this sharing of stories and discussing maths with our children, can help parents become less anxious in this space.

The federal Government recently committed $6.4m to support the development of maths resources for students. This forms a part of the government’s agenda to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects in our schools.

So how can parents use books to help improve their child’s maths skills? Here are some suggestions:

Reading tips for parents

Read books with mathematical concepts to your children.

In some books the content is obvious – we are all familiar with Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Try reading these as well:

  • 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental
  • Leaping lizards by Stuart Murphy
  • Math for all seasons: Mind-stretching Maths Riddles by Greg Tang
  • My Grandmother’s Clock by Geraldine McCaughrean

Consider asking your local librarian for some other ideas. Look for books with amusing pictures and colourful illustrations – we know how this attracts children to read.

Talk about the book with your child, as you would with any other story.

The mathematical elements will naturally come into the conversation and should be encouraged – this will help children to see maths as part of everyday life.

By simply including books which include mathematical concepts in nighttime routines, parents can feel more confident that they are contributing to the mathematical development of their child outside the classroom at the same time as creating a less stressful environment for discussing mathematics.


Kylie will be taking part in an Ask An Expert Q&A on Twitter from noon to 1pm on Thursday, November. Head over to Twitter and post your questions about learning and teaching maths using #AskAnExpert.

The Conversation

Kylie Robson, Clinical Teaching Specialist – Mathematics and Literacy Education, Faculty of ESTeM, University of Canberra, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Article: Flirting in Bookshops


This is the sort of post that I would say is scrapping the barrel for legitimacy as a subject that is true to the overall thrust of this Blog. It is about bookshops and also involves books as props. The link below is to an article that looks at the rules of flirting in a bookshop.

For more visit:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-leto/bookstore-flirting-rules-_b_1894538.html

Book Review: Killing Calvinism – How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher


Killing CalvinismI have started reading ‘Killing Calvinism – How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside,’ by Greg Dutcher. This book was released by Cruciform Press in June 2012, so I have been reading a new book for a change. Generally I read books that were written many years ago, often several centuries ago, so this was a bit unusual for me. It was however the title of the book, along with a review that I had read somewhere, that drew my attention to it and so I decided to buy it at Amazon in Kindle format.

So reading the book I quickly discovered that it was a very easy book to read, even though it dealt with a subject that was indeed crucial, timely and weighty. Calvinism is the behemoth of Christian theology, being a system of truth that epitomises the teaching of Scripture. It has produced great works of theology, some very technical and verbose in nature. Yet here was a book looking at this system of truth that was easy to read and speaking straight to the heart with great warmth and even humour (yes humour).

However, it would be a mistake to think that this book dealt with Calvinism in a detached manner, somehow separated from the adherent to it. Indeed, this book seeks to penetrate the hearts of the adherents of Calvinism and to strike at the heart of the matter. This is not a book that somehow produces a barren formalism, rather it smashes through formalism and seeks the real Calvinism, one that comes from the inner person regenerated by the spirit of God and transforms the lives of those that profess it. It is a living Calvinism that this book seeks and challenges everything else that claims to be Calvinism, but yet has nothing of its soul. This book is a clarion call for a Calvinism that ignited the hearts of a Calvin, of a Spurgeon and of a Bunyan and desires a turning away from all that is not. I love Calvinism – it leads me to God and the way of life he wishes me to lead and live. This book reminds me of this and for that I am thankful to Him for allowing me to read it. It is as Dutcher describes it, the windscreen of truth that allows me to see God and how he wants me to live for Him.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Calvinism-Perfectly-Theology-ebook/dp/B0088PBC5G

Book Review: A God Entranced Vision of All Things – The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards


I have started reading ‘A God Entranced Vision of All Things – The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards,’ with John Piper and Justin Taylor as the general editors of the book. It was published in 2004 by Crossway Books and has 275 pages.

This book is a collection of studies on Jonathan Edwards – his life, ministry and legacy. Each chapter investigates some facet of Edwards and each chapter is penned by a different author. The authors of these studies include John Piper, J. I. Packer, Paul Helm and Sam Storms, names widely recognized in reformed circles. The studies are expansions of messages delivered at a Desiring God Ministries conference in October 2003, celebrating 300 years since the birth of Jonathan Edwards.

In my journey through this book, I have thus far reached the end of chapter 2. What I can say is that this book is very easy to read, but difficult to put down. It has the readability that many books associated with Desiring God Ministries have, yet the weightiness of the subject matter does not allow one to just move through the book without serious reflection.

The book doesn’t leave you contemplating the past and Jonathan Edwards in particular, but the God of Jonathan Edwards and leads the reader to a serious contemplation of the glorious God who is all. Edwards life was about God and his enjoyment of Him, and this is the subject of chapter 1, ‘A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later,’ by John Piper. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the life and legacy of Jonathan Edwards in ‘Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Legacy,’ by Stephen J. Nichols. With chapter 3, ‘Sarah Edwards: Jonathan’s Home and Haven,’ by Noel Piper, the subject matters of the first section of the book is dealt with brilliantly, ‘Part 1 – The Life and Legacy of Edards.’ Certainly I can speak to the first two chapters as having achieved that and I have little doubt the third will compliment the first 2.

The treatment of the guiding principles of Edwards’ life and the brief overview of it, leads the reader to the God of Jonathan Edwards and this would surely be the legacy that Edwards would have hoped for.