Parenting Tools

Boost Math Skills at Bedtime

By Malia Jacobson

Turns out, 12-04-02-counting-sheepthat old-timey tactic for summoning the sandman — counting sheep — might actually benefit kids’ math skills. Especially if you throw in a little sheep addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication (just keep it PG!).

A bedtime math problem might be the answer to our kids’ lagging math skills, according to Bedtime Math, a new non-profit organization that urges parents to give kids a new math problem each night at bedtime. The “bedtime story” tradition is firmly entrenched in our culture that emphasizes literacy, and that’s all well and good. But today’s kids need math literacy, too. A daily math problem is an excellent way addition to a solid bedtime routine.

The folks at Bedtime Math are right on the money, science-wise. According to a recent study from University of Notre Dame, learning new material right before sleep makes it easier to recall the material later. So after working on a bedtime math problem, your kids can actually get better at math while they sleep!

So how can you give Bedtime Math a whirl? Simple: just give your kids a bedtime math problem. No need to get fancy. You could probably come up with limitless story problems using the objects in your child’s bedroom.

  • “If there are seven days in a week, and you only have three clean pairs of socks, how many more clean pairs will you need?”
  • “It’s eight o’clock now. How many hours until you get up at 7?”
  • “We have 10 crackers. If we make three equal piles for you, your brother, and me, how many will we have in each pile? Will we have any left over?”

I’m sure you can come up with better ones, and you might even have fun doing it! Better yet, you’ll be planting the seeds for mathematic literacy that will take root while your child sleeps, and pay dividends when she’s awake.

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published freelance writer who blogs about parenting and health at, where this post originally appeared.

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