Connecticut Families Extra: Making Math Fun with Tablets

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — They love to tap it, swipe it, and watch it, but can kids as young as 4 and 5-years-old use tablets not just to view videos, or read books, but to learn math? One researcher says ‘yes’.

4-year-old Reuben loves to count, especially when it comes to counting his food.

Reuben’s mom says, “If he’s eating the cookie and he has more than one, he’ll be like ‘I had two cookies’ and then he’ll eat it and say ‘Now I have one cookie’.”

Vanderbilt Developmental Psychologist Erica Zippert, PhD, says kids can use objects all around them to do math, including tablets.

“Given the increased prevalence of tablets, it was really important for us to start to look at how parents and preschoolers might be exploring math on these digital devices,” Zippet said.

In a University of Maryland study, Zippert observed 4 and 5-year-old kids as they played a math-related computer board game with their parents. Half the parents were told to use the opportunity to help their child learn about numbers, such as naming the numbers on the spinner and counting spaces moved. The other half were given no guidance aside from instructions on how to play the game.

“When we prompted parents to focus on teaching their child about numbers, we saw a significant increase in parents’ number talk,” Zippert said.

The finding suggests that tablets can be used to promote math talk between parents and kids if they are doing it together.

Zippert said, “The things that were really helpful that parents were saying were things like, ‘Why don’t you count for me?’

Other things parents can do to promote math talk while playing a tablet math game with their kids include:

  • Naming numbers on the spaces or spinner
  • Counting the number of spaces moved
  • Adding or comparing numbers

With a lot of math-related apps out there, Common Sense Media offers parents a guide to some of the best math-related apps for their kids, including Bedtime Math and PBS Kids. Find out more at

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