Six Easy Ways to Build Your Toddler’s Math Mind

Thank you to Christ the Savior Academy for sponsoring this post and for providing quality education opportunities for the families of Wichita.
Studies show that a child’s math skills when entering kindergarten are a better predictor of future academic success than reading skills, social skills or the ability to focus.
That’s why Katherine Earles, who holds degrees in engineering and mathematics, knew that preparing her Pre-K children to read was important, but developing their math mind was equally important.
As a WSU instructor, Earles taught elementary education majors how to instruct young children in math.  She now puts many of those same principles into practice as a math specials teacher at Christ the Savior Academy, a classical, Christian school near 13th and Rock Road.
Earles believes parents should play a huge role in getting their children ready and excited to learn math.
“Most parents are deliberate in teaching their children the alphabet and the sounds of each letter before they enter kindergarten,” Earles said. “We can do something similar with mathematical ideas. The key is being deliberate and recognizing daily opportunities to teach those basic math concepts to our children.”
How can we do a better job of teaching our toddlers math?  Let us count the ways…

1. Rearrange the Tupperware Drawer

Let your toddler arrange Tupperware containers on the kitchen table by height. Start the ball rolling by lining up a few yourself. (You can also let her choose her own method of sorting and then let her tell you about it.) “Remember, math is more than numbers. It is also sorting and finding relationships between objects.”

2. Counting in Daily Chores 

Numbers comprise three concepts: symbol, ordinal and set.

Grocery shopping to teach the number as symbol concept. As you push your cart down an aisle, start a conversation.  “I see a number 6.  What numbers do you see?”
Using stairs to teach the ordinal concept. Each time you go up or down stairs, have your child count them with you. This begins to emphasize the order of numbers.
Counting cookies to teach the set concept. Set out four cookies and ask your toddler to count how many there are.  Then recount them again starting on a different cookie (so that the word “four” lands on a different cookie). Let your hand hover over the whole group when you say “there are four cookies.” The idea is to emphasize that four refers to the size of the whole group and not just the fourth item.

3. Car Trips “Shape” Math Skills: 

Learn the names of shapes together and practice them when riding in the car. “Sammy, what shape is that sign?” Once your child learns squares, circles and rectangles, move on to ovals, triangles and octagons. 

4. Lego Fun!

See how many different ways you can arrange a group of Legos. Take a set of eight Duplo blocks and delight in the fact that you can stack them in two groups of 4, a group of 2 and a group of 6, or a tall stack of 7 and a short stack of 1. Each time you count them up you still get 8.

5. Cooking with Kids

Start with a simple recipe, such as Jell-O. Talk about what you are doing on each step. Then, have your child recall the steps you took to make the Jell-O as you enjoy eating it together.

6. Enroll Your Child in a Strong Pre-K Program 

Choose a school that emphasizes deliberate math conversations between students and teachers, such as the one at Christ the Savior Academy.  If you’re interested in scheduling a tour of the school, please call 316-201-4810.
Remember, the key to transforming a simple, daily activity into an opportunity for your toddler to grow mathematically is deliberate conversation.  You, the parent, need to display openness and eagerness regarding the small, creative math moments in your daily life.

“Just as children learn to value reading by being read to and observing the adults in their lives reading,” Earles said, “children will be more likely to value mathematics when the adults in their lives speak of mathematics in a way that is familiar and confident.”

Katherine Earles spent years teaching college students how to instruct elementary students in math.  Now she has the joy of teaching math to students at Christ the Savior Academy. Earles holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Idaho State University and a Master of Science in Mathematics from Wichita State University. She has more than ten years of teaching experience.

Christ the Savior Academy, located at 13th and Rock Road in Wichita, is a classical, Christian School, which spans from Junior Kindergarten (4-year-olds) to 5th grade. The curriculum combines the wisdom of the Church and the best of secular culture to teach students to read well, write well and think well. It is a time-tested model used since the Ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval times. Oxford, Eton and Cambridge have used the classical method to produce leaders for centuries.


  1. Great article! Math is fun for kids if introduced by parent early with excitement and enthusiasm. If parent loves it, the child will too! I really don’t understand why there’s so much fear of math in the US. Math is logic! Great points from Mrs. Earles at Christ The Savior Academy. Check out that place if looking for great academics, small and family like environment. My girl flourished there.

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