What is Family Math?

If you fold laundry, read children’s books, or follow recipes, math is part of your daily life, probably in more ways than you’ve thought about. The articles in our research-based Early Math Toolkit for Professionals Serving Families prepare professionals to support families in finding and talking about math in their everyday lives. To help you and the families you work with get started with family math, our Family Activities offer tips, games, and other materials geared toward children from birth to age 8, but children of all ages will delight in the learning.

a mom kneels next to her daughter who is in a wheelchair and they flip through cards together.

When and Where Does Family Math Take Place?

Math is everywhere! Early math skills develop at home, in preschool or daycare, and anywhere that young children and adults have opportunities to play and learn together. For example, early math skills can develop at home while doing chores or cooking, and also while playing at the park, during a trip to the supermarket, or at the bus stop—though this is by no means a complete list.

A grandfather and granddaughter sit on a couch reading a book, with the grandfather’s arm around his daughter.

Who Can Support Family Math?

Young children rely on their families to help guide their learning about the world around them. But we also know that families can often use support. Professionals who work with families with young children play an important role in promoting family engagement with early math. Whatever your role is in supporting families with young children, we have free, research-based early math materials to meet your needs.

A mother and father sit at a table and talk with their daughter’s teacher.

How Can I Support Family Math?

No matter your own experiences with math, we have suggestions to help you engage the families you work with and promote positive attitudes toward math.

1
Reach Out

Communicate with families and make them aware of the importance of early math and activities that support it—especially families who might be underserved.

2
Raise Up

Recognize knowledge, special skills, and experiences that many families already have in early math. Listen and respond to their feedback and perspectives.

3
Reinforce

Guide and support families in seeing the early math they use in their daily lives. In fact, many early math concepts may not look like math at all. For example, chores and errands, cooking, games and play, and reading together all offer math learning opportunities! Provide activities that families can use to build positive mindsets about what they naturally do.

4
Relate

Support families in building positive and joyful relationships with their children around early math.

5
Reimagine

Math happens everywhere, all the time, and not only in schools, but also in homes, parks, libraries, doctor’s offices, and elsewhere. Connect families to these spaces for additional early math support and link your own work to these community partners.

Adapted from Weiss, H.B., Caspe, M., Lopez, M. E., & McWilliams, L. (2016). Ideabook: Libraries for families. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.

Why Family Math?

All families want to support their children, and research shows that early math skills are a powerful predictor of later success in school and in life. It is crucial to support families in identifying, creating, and sharing positive math experiences with their children.

Asset 18
Family Relationships

Children learn fundamental math concepts through vibrant interactions with families and caregivers.

Asset 18
Academic Success

Children are more likely to succeed in school when they engage in math talk and activities at home.

Asset 18
Social-Emotional Skills

Children develop important social and emotional skills through meaningful and engaging math talk and activities at home.

Asset 18
Literacy Skills

Early math skills strengthen children’s reading and language skills.