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Bedtime Math (Time Magazine story)

Beyond Counting Sheep By Bonnie Rochman

One recent evening in West Caldwell, N.J., a library hosted a pajama party. Twenty little kids in princess nightgowns and football flannels counted out glittery animal stickers and pasted them onto homemade dominoes. Then they raced a stuffed pink frog on a carabiner up and down a zip line, raising and lowering their arms to speed it up and slow it down--physics in motion.. Laura Bilodeau Overdeck, a Princeton-trained astrophysicist turned stay-at-home mom, watched the scene intently. This pajama party was her idea. She's the founder of the nonprofit Bedtime Math, and she wants kids to fall in love with numbers. As part of
that mission, she wants to change the way parents put their kids to bed..

It's not that Overdeck, 43, is quibbling with the sacrosanct bath-then-book nighttime routine. She just wants parents to add a math problem, as she and her husband, investment-fund manager John Overdeck, have done with their kids, ages 4, 7 and 9. A year ago she launched the Bedtime Math website; an app and book are forthcoming. She's reached out to libraries across the U.S., offering gratis do-it-yourself kits for Bedtime Math pajama parties--dominoes, stickers and zip-line cord included. She is exploring partnerships with organizations like the Girl Scouts in Chicago and is hoping to reach science museums. Everyone knows they should read a book to their kids before bed," she says, "but nobody knows they should be doing math too. The core of Bedtime Math is pretty simple: a free daily math problem, geared to one of three levels of difficulty: "wee ones" (prekindergarten), "little kids" (kindergarten to second grade or so) and "big kids" (second grade and up). The subjects tend to be ones that especially appeal to children--candy, for example. A recent wee-ones calculation: "M&M's last 13 months, but Life Savers last only 9 months, despite their name. How many months will those M&M's outlast the Life Savers? States, weather and arcane holidays like International Pancake Day also play starring roles, as do animals; a recent problem asked kids to calculate how far a skunk can spray its scent.. Overdeck is hoping that candy and other child-friendly puzzles can be a remedy for math anxiety.

Research shows that early math skills are a better predictor of academic success than reading ability. But the U.S. is in a numbers slump: America's students rank 25th out of 34 industrialized countries in math. Everyone from the Girl Scouts to Sesame Street has launched efforts to reverse the trend. U.S. children are not performing up to the level one would expect," says Sian Beilock, author of Choke, about performance anxiety. Part of the problem might be cultural. You never hear people walking around bragging that they can't read," she says, "but you hear people all the time saying 'I don't do numbers.'

Beilock, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, will soon lead a study of the program's impact on two groups of preschool- and kindergarten-age children.. Bedtime Math is part of a project that a lot of people are working on, which is, What is the cultural shift that will get kids coming into school already comfortable with math? says Dan Finkel, a co founder of Math for Love, a Seattle outfit that advises teachers on how to use games to spice up math education.. In contrast to Math for Love, Overdeck targets parents, not educators. If it's related to schools, it sounds compulsory," she says. We want kids to feel about math the way they feel about dessert after dinner. The Overdecks have always done math--bedtime and otherwise--with their kids, beginning when their oldest was 2: they would count the appendages on the stuffed animals in her collection. Last February, Laura began to share her family's math habit, e-mailing a few friends and relatives a sample problem. Since then, 20,000 people have signed up to receive her daily messages. Bedtime Math now has a staff of five; Laura still designs the problems, with the help of a calendar of dates worthy of a challenge, such as Cookie Monster's birthday and the anniversary of Alaska's statehood.. It's hard to argue that Bedtime Math isn't fun, but some are skeptical that it's a cure-all. It won't be a slam dunk for everyone who uses it," says Finkel, who thinks math before bedtime revs kids up when they should be winding down.

With the University of Chicago study yet to start, the strongest evidence that Bedtime Math can change children's skills comes from data collected from Snacktime Math, a program of Bedtime Math problems given to kids attending summer camp at a New Jersey Boys & Girls Club: more than 70% of the largely low-income students improved their skills after a six-week session.. Most of the other data in support of Bedtime Math are, for the time being, anecdotal.



Asked by Ballad at 4:47 PM on Feb. 24, 2013 in

Level 45 (193,996 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (11)
  • No worries about the link. I'm pretty comfortable using google.

    It's an interesting idea. Doubt it will revolutionize the education, but I totally agree that a cultural shift needs to take place regarding STEM topics and parents approach to early math is an obvious place to start.

    Answer by Sebbiemama at 8:33 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Haha remember when someone here got busted for plagiarism hehe.
    Ballad, we all know how to click Links & read yahoo news

    Answer by funlovinlady at 4:56 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Should we also be doing a science experiment and a history lesson each night as well?


    All joking aside, I think this is a great idea, especially with so many people who hate/fear/don't understand math. However, I looked at the website and I think that the math problems could be better related to child and what schema they already know. It looks exactly like what you would expect from a Princeton-trained astrophysicist. 


    Answer by JeremysMom at 5:12 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • gees...we're lucky to get a book read with the craziness that is bed time...then try adding in a math problem. no thanks! interesting idea tho.

    Answer by okmanders at 5:38 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • One
    mother told Overdeck that her child's zest for Bedtime Math enables her to
    use it as a threat: "If you don't brush your teeth now, no math tonight!
    Sandy Smith, a Bedtime Math subscriber who attended the West Caldwell pajama
    party with her two preschoolers, says, "I always concentrated on the reading
    part, and I forgot to focus on the math. Her confession is all the more
    revealing because she is an elementary school teacher.. In early February,
    Bedtime Math threw a pajama party at Manhattan's brand-new Museum of
    Mathematics, where kids can do things like live out geometry by pedaling
    square-wheeled trikes over curved tracks. The Overdecks are major donors to
    the museum, where some 100 kids made their own card-stock clocks and
    tangrams while sipping hot chocolate. (Parents could opt for a splash of
    Kahl*a in theirs.) We want math to be warm and fuzzy," says Overdeck. Which
    isn't to say it should be easy.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 4:49 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Thanks to popular demand, at the end of
    February, Bedtime Math is rolling out a new, Einstein-like level of
    difficulty, "the sky's the limit," for tweens, teens and even adults. When
    it comes to end-of-the-day problem solving, why should little kids have all
    the fun?.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 4:50 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • Can you summarize that in your own words & include the source link....
    Always cite your source with a link or you may be accused to plagiarism 


    Answer by Crafty26 at 4:54 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • It came to me in an e-mail from a parenting list. When I've tried to put links on, people claimthey don't work. It may be because the screen reading software I use doesn't show the proper tool bar.

    Incidentally, I've seen lots of other people post stories without the benefit of your insightful remarks.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 5:13 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • How do I add a link to a post?

    When you create a post or message (click on full editor), you'll have a text edit toolbar at the top of the text box (on the bottom here in Answers). In that section, you should see a button with a chain icon.

     Here's how to insert a link: 

    1.  Highlight the text you want to make a hyperlink of.

    2.  Click on the chain icon. 

    3.  Type in the URL to the website. You can also copy and paste the web address into this field.

    4.  When you're finished, click "Insert".



    Answer by Crafty26 at 5:21 PM on Feb. 24, 2013

  • I know that, Crafty. I'm capable of clicking on the FAQ and have done so. But the text to speech (screen reading) software I use because I can't se the monitor doesn't read all of the proper icons and boxes that would enable me to follow those instructions. I'm doing the best I can. I included the author of the article and the magazine in which it was published. I did not take credit for its contents. I've seen other people post in the same way.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 5:35 PM on Feb. 24, 2013