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Good screen time for kids? Make math fun with tablets

Parents can use tablet time to teach children numbers, math

They love to tap it, swipe it and watch it, but can kids as young as 4 or 5 years old use tablets not just to view videos or read books, but to learn math?

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

“He tells me how many crackers he wants, how many cookies he wants, and then 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,” Reuben’s mom, Ayelet Berger, told Ivanhoe.

Vanderbilt developmental psychologist Dr. Erica Zippert said 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,” explained Zippert.

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.

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

Other things parents can do: name numbers on spaces or the spinner, count the number of spaces moved, and even add or compare 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 Lab. You can find more information at www.commonsensemedia.org.