Fun resources help early learners with math and reading

Jan 27, 2023, 6:17 PM | Updated: 8:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — We all know reading with our children is important, but experts now say math scores are actually better predictors of reading literacy.

Clarence Ames, research and implementation manager at the Utah STEM Action Center, has made it his mission to help parents become more aware of the importance of teaching early math skills to their young children.

“If we can help parents become more aware of important early math concepts, their children will be set up for success when they head to kindergarten,” Ames said.

The state agency recently created the MILO (Math Introduction and Learning Opportunities) and Friends campaign. It is designed to help close this gap and provide fun and engaging resources for caregivers.

“Most parents know that it’s important to read to their young kids, and we hope that this program will let them know that it’s just as important to do math with their young kids,” Ames said. “We are making math fun for Utah families!”

Since the campaign launched, the center has held “math nights” at local preschools, where they show parents and caregivers how specific board games incorporate early math skills such as counting, shapes, patterns, and matching.

“The games that we’ve selected, we’ve tested with preschoolers, and when preschoolers see them, they get excited,” Ames said. “With ‘Happy Bunny,’ they are excited about opening the box, rolling the dice and pulling out carrots. And that is what brings joy to mathematics.”

Dozens of parents and their preschoolers packed the gymnasium at Liberty Elementary for a recent event put on by the center.

Omar Reza said his daughter Marjorie, 5, enjoyed learning about the materials handed out to families and is excited to add the new board game to her collection.

“She picked it up really quick. She was the one that was telling me the instructions,” Reza said. “She likes to be competitive!”

Reza is hopeful that “Happy Bunny” will help their daughter build a strong foundation in math and reading.

“Giving her the tools will help her succeed at the other things she wants to accomplish later in life,” he said.

In addition, the center partnered with Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation to design a series of signs for Wheeler Farm. The signs have simple math activities that parents can do with their 2 to 4-year-olds, such as comparing the sizes of chickens and turkeys, and identifying triangles and circles in nearby objects.

The center is always looking to partner with organizations hold “math night” events. If you are interested in hosting or are a parent who wants to get your hands on these games and resources you can click here for more information.

Utah STEM Action Center is a division of the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement tasked with advancing STEM education best practices in Utah. It was created by a legislative directive in 2013.

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Fun resources help early learners with math and reading