Lab News

  • Math: A Fun Part of Your Everyday Life

    March 19, 2013

    Math: A Fun Part of Your Everyday Life
    by Maria Lando,

    Maria Lando

    Math. What is it good for? Do we really use it in our daily life?  

    Well, maybe a bit in cooking. It is all about proportions, right? You over-salted the soup and now need to increase the other ingredients proportionally. Your cake recipe asks for 2 and 1/2 cup of flour, do you have enough in this half-empty 5-pound bag?

    Perhaps, also in shopping. Math can tell you whether an additional 30% off after 50% off is the same as 80% off (it is not). Without thinking about it, you play with math weekly when deciding how far you’d be willing to drive for your food shopping, and how much to buy.

    As a parent, you are an expert at optimizing carpool routes. You know how to detect a pattern of lies, colds, or lice. You rely on math to decide whether you can afford to return to work after having another child.

    At home you know very well that a mattress must be tilted if it doesn't fit in a door entrance. You observe that a corner of your living room remains empty most of the time, and decide to place a home office there.

    Through the course of these everyday actions, we’ve used algebra, geometry, optimization, pattern analysis, logic, and statistics. We all are much better at math than we think.  We bounce math ideas in our head everywhere we go and with whatever we do: cooking, shopping, driving, home decorating, traveling, and parenting.
    Math is a great tool, advisor, and toy to enjoy and share with your kids.

    Play a game and ask your kids to imagine a brunch with math gone awry: two guests are standing because someone miscalculated the number of chairs; giant over-salted pancakes are served in small dessert plates; meanwhile maple syrup is presented in a soup bowl with a fork.

    During a car ride, math can help you stay sane and avoid the "are we there yet?" questions. Let's look for a pattern of all odd numbers in car license plates. What do you think is the most popular car color? Least popular? Counting is a thrill for preschoolers. Count all the traffic lights on the way. See whether you can spot more gas stations on the right or on the left.

    Math is all about patterns — shapes, colors, sizes. Order. This means that math is your best helper at clean-up time. Who can bring the most toys back to the toy basket? Who can group all the Legos by color? What do you think is the best way to fit all these blocks / Dominos back into the box?

    Need more ideas? PBS KIDS has made it so easy to integrate math into our everyday lives with the new PBS Parents Play & Learn app for iOS and Android. The app provides more than a dozen math and literacy-based games parents can play with their kids, each themed around a familiar location. So next time you’re at the grocery store, restaurant or, at home, you can teach your child math skills like counting, measurement and estimation.

    Fun, simple and useful math is everywhere around us helping to optimize and simplify our lives. All we need to do is notice, enjoy, sometimes apply it on purpose, and always present it to our kids as a toy, a tool and a friend.


    March 06, 2013


    PBS KIDS announces “It All Adds Up,” offering families math learning tools, including a new app for parents of early learners

    SXSWedu, Austin, TX, March 6, 2013 – Although research shows that math skills at kindergarten entry can be an even stronger predictor of school achievement than reading skills1, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics. While a variety of factors contribute to lagging math skills, a new survey released today by PBS KIDS suggests parents place less emphasis on math, since they view other skills as “the greatest predictor of achievement later in life,” ranking reading and literacy (26%) and the ability to pay attention and work hard (47%) as most indicative versus math (14%). The national survey of parents with children ages 2-12 also indicated that parents are less likely to support their kids’ math skills from the earliest ages, and that many parents have anxiety about supporting math learning at home. Responding to this need, PBS KIDS, in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), today announced at SXSWedu “It All Adds Up,” an effort that aims to boost math learning at home – and everywhere – by providing resources for parents.

    “It All Adds Up” is an awareness effort designed to expand the impact of Ready To Learn, a cooperative initiative between CPB and PBS, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, to support the development of early math and literacy skills in children ages 2-8 from low-income families. Ready To Learn’s mission is to use the power of public media’s content as a catalyst for children’s learning in both math and literacy. This emphasis is especially important given that the U.S.’s ranking of 25 among 34 countries in children’s math achievement2 has prompted national concern. President Obama emphasized the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills in his recent State of Union address, citing their importance in preparing this generation for a high-tech economy.  

    Yet PBS KIDS’ survey found that parents may be missing an opportunity to start early in building their kids’ math skills. Parents with older children are more likely to practice math skills daily with their kids than parents of younger children. Sixty percent of parents of 5-8-year-olds practice math daily with their kids, whereas only half of parents of 2-4-year-olds do. Parents are also more likely to practice reading skills with their kids than they are to practice math. This may be in part due to parents’ lower comfort levels with teaching math. Nearly 30 percent of parents reported anxiety about teaching their children math, and that anxiety is even greater for moms (33%) and parents with an education level of high school or less (32%).

    “The early years of life are most critical for learning both literacy and math; in fact, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics because they are not getting consistent support from a young age,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS. “The good news is that there are simple things parents can do to support early math learning that can all add up to make a big difference. We know that parents trust PBS KIDS and look to us for ways to support their kids’ learning, and we are excited to offer parents and caregivers free resources they can use on their mobile phones or computers, and offline activity ideas that make anytime a learning time.”

    “It All Adds Up” builds on the collection of more than 100 games and apps that PBS KIDS and CPB have launched over the past two years through Ready To Learn to help build math and literacy skills. The effort also introduces new multiplatform tools, including the new PBS Parents Play & Learn App and a new team of experts called Math Mentors, to help parents increase their own confidence with math and nurture their children’s love for math from an early age. All of these resources are accessible on PBS KIDS Lab, a site that aggregates games, apps and offline activities to help support math and reading learning for kids 2-8. The site also offers several gaming suites, each of which links a set of games across platforms – accessible through computers, mobile devices and interactive whiteboards – so that kids can engage with the same characters as they move from device to device. The content is also linked by curricular frameworks, leveraging games on a variety of platforms to support key math and reading skills.

    “Parents, caregivers and teachers have long trusted public media to provide high-quality educational content that is designed to help children learn anytime, anywhere,” said Debra Sanchez, Senior Vice President, Education and Children’s Content at CPB. “‘It All Adds Up’ brings together the best resources created through Ready To Learn to give our nation’s youngest learners a strong foundation in critical math skills that are essential to success in school.”  

    New “It All Adds Up” Resources Include:

    PBS Parents Play & Learn App
    PBS KIDS’ first app designed specifically for parents, PBS Parents Play & Learn provides more than a dozen math and literacy-based games parents can play with their kids, each themed around a familiar location, including the grocery store or restaurant or, at home, in the bath or in the kitchen. The bilingual (English/Spanish) app helps build math skills, including counting, measurement and estimation, and literacy skills, such as letter identification, rhyming and vocabulary. The app is especially useful for introducing the youngest of learners to reading and math concepts with games and activities that are leveled by stages: baby, toddler and preschool.

    The PBS Parents Play & Learn App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and for Android phones and tablets, including both the Kindle Fire HD 7 and Kindle Fire HD 8.9. For more details, visit   

    In addition to Ready To Learn funds, PBS Parents Play & Learn was funded in part by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

    Math Mentors
    PBS KIDS has assembled a team of early childhood educators and educational bloggers who will provide tips and ideas for parents to help their children learn early math concepts and to integrate math activities into their daily lives. Parents can also visit PBS KIDS Lab for additional information and tools from the Math Mentors.  

    New FETCH! 3D-rendered Online Game: Ruff Ruffman’s Monumental Mini-golf
    Kids ages 6-8 will help Ruff build his monumental mini-golf course in this 3D-rendered game. The game is a publicly-facing beta, which means that it is still in development and is available online to give users a first look. In Monumental Mini-golf, kids safely partner with other players to solve puzzles and create structures while practicing spatial reasoning, measurement, and 2D- and 3D-rendered shape manipulation. As an incentive, at the end of the game, kids get the chance to the play mini-golf in the course they created. Players interact with all their favorite characters from FETCH! WITH RUFF RUFFMAN while learning important math skills in this unique game.

    Through the Ready To Learn Initiative, PBS KIDS offers offline activities, online games and mobile apps, most of which are available free, at

    PBS KIDS will continue to build on this commitment to math learning with the launch of PEG + CAT this fall. The animated preschool series will follow the adorable, spirited Peg and her sidekick Cat as they embark on adventures and learn foundational math concepts and skills. Through efforts like “It All Adds Up,” PBS KIDS is increasingly serving kids where they live, learn and play – helping to make any time a learning time on mobile devices, on-air, online and beyond.

    1 Developmental Psychology Journal (2007)
    2 National Assessment of Education Progress Report (2011)

    Survey Methodology:
    PBS KIDS surveyed a sample of more than 1,000 parents who currently have a child between the ages of 2-12. Respondents were 20 years of age and older. Interviewing for this survey was completed during February 18-25, 2013.