Parents know to read to their kids at night, but what about math? Our goal is simple: to make math a fun part of kids’ everyday lives, as beloved as the bedtime story.
Bedtime Math sends parents a fun, new math problem every day, on everything from electric eels and chocolate chips to roller coasters and flamingoes. Targeted for kids ages 3-9, it begins with a short, fun set-up story, followed by three math problems at three levels of challenge. Our founder, Laura Overdeck, did this for years with her own three young children, only to discover that this unexpectedly created a completely math-loving household compared to society at large. The wake-up call occurred when her third child, age 2 at the time, ran into the room one night yelling that he wanted his own math problem. He saw his older sister and brother having all the fun.
Why does math need to be fun and engaging?
So that kids will invest in learning it: kids learn only when they want to. Well, why do they need to learn math? Most of them won’t use it once they’re done with school, right? On the contrary. All kids need strong math skills so they can become capable adults, not just those who will one day fill high-tech jobs. They need to tackle the numbers behind countless daily decisions, from knowing when to leave to arrive at a destination on time, to estimating how much gas they’ll use along the way and the cost to fill the tank. They’ll need to food-shop for a holiday meal and know quantities. Most of all, they’ll need to be able to eyeball invoices and spot errors in credit card charges. When you’re fearless about math, people can’t take advantage of you!
And yet we are nowhere near fearless. While math skills are a better predictor of school success than reading skills or attention span, nearly half of all 8th graders can’t line up fractions from smallest to largest. Time and again we see adults floundering due to this very skill shortfall, quivering at the idea of calculating the tip. Now restaurants calculate it for us, and you know what? They routinely boost the percentages without listing them, and they often include tax when they should not. We have even experienced a case where the restaurant split the check but listed the entire tip on both people’s receipts, thus raking in double the tip. They count on us being helpless.
We can do better
What led to this? Our decades-old education system has struggled to cope with the wild disparities in achievement levels of students, leaving the burden on educators to put them all on a trajectory of learning. But the sad truth is we’re not even close to where we need to be: only 33% of students are proficient in math by eighth grade, and 61% of Americans lack the math skills needed to “live a mature and independent life,” which includes basic two-step calculations with whole numbers, and understanding a basic data table in the news. We can do better. It’s time to break the cycle and get our next generation to love math and excel at it.
A key step is to give kids room to tackle math challenges at the right level of difficulty, and journey to the right answer. Parents can play a vital role in their child’s learning by creating a healthy home math environment that brings math to life for them. To foster this, it’s critical for math to feel relevant to kids to appeal to their curiosity. Rather than taking math and “making” it fun, Bedtime Math does the opposite: we find topics that kids find fun, then unearth the math in them. What sets Bedtime Math apart is that it encourages a conversation between parents and kids about math outside of school, and offers a simple routine way to do it in a daily, low-effort, high-impact way.
Here’s the proof
A University of Chicago study found that within just one school year, kids who did Bedtime Math with their parents improved their math skills on average by 3 months more than kids who did not. Most notably, kids of the most math-anxious parents who did Bedtime Math had gains of half a school year. Follow-up findings from the study show these effects last for years. We invite you to take this journey to success, and watch your child increasingly enjoy math victories.