When many parents think of getting ready for kindergarten, they automatically focus on the alphabet and the skills needed for reading. But kindergarten readiness doesn’t just require early literacy skills. In fact, early math skills are actually the more accurate predictor of school success.

When a family enrolls in the SPARK kindergarten readiness program, screenings are administered to measure the child’s literacy and math skill levels. They’re measured again after program completion: this shows the progress the child has made while participating in the program. Analysis of the screening scores showed that SPARK children have been making greater gains in literacy than in math.

So a team of SPARK representatives from across the state collaborated to enhance the math elements of SPARK lessons. The revised lessons show parents how to embed math into everyday interactions.

That’s no easy feat: math anxiety is widespread. One research study found parents focus more on language skills with their children, know less about how to focus on math, and need help overcoming their own math anxiety.

Each SPARK family is assigned a specially trained home visitor, known as a parent partner, who visits the home monthly to conduct lessons and activities. During the visits, the parent partner gives simple, accessible explanations of key math concepts and demonstrates lots of easy ways to work on those skills with their children every day. 

The aim is to make teaching math accessible by showing parents they don’t need expertise, academic degrees, or extraordinary efforts. They need only involve their child in counting the stairs, sorting the socks, spotting red cars in the parking lot, or deciding which plate has more carrots. Math is taught through easy actions requiring no special supplies or preparation.

By getting in the habit of pointing out the math that’s all around us, SPARK parents are helping their children strengthen those fundamental math skills they’ll need for school success.

That enhanced focus on math will pay off big, both in kindergarten and beyond.