Prompting young children’s numeracy talk in play: The role of parent questions

Year of publication


Publication link


Journal of Experimental Child Psychology

APA citation

Eason, S., Nelson, A. Dearing, E. & Levine, S.C. (2021). Prompting young children’s numeracy talk in play: The role of parent questions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.


Previous research has demonstrated the contribution of parents’ number language to children’s own engagement with numbers and later mathematical achievement. Although there is evidence that both the quantity and complexity of parent number talk contribute to children’s math learning, it is unclear whether different forms of parents’ number talk—statements versus prompts—offer unique contributions to how children engage in math. We examined parent number talk among 50 dyads of parents and 2- to 4-year-olds during pretend play, coding parents’ provisions of informative number statements and prompts inviting children to engage in number talk. The total amount (tokens) and diversity (types) of children’s number words were analyzed separately. Parents’ number utterances, particularly prompts about number, were infrequent. Both parents’ number statements and their prompts were uniquely related to children’s number word tokens. Only prompts were associated with children’s number word types. Follow-up analyses indicated that prompts were associated with lengthier parent–child conversations about number than parent statements and that children used larger number words when responding to parent prompts than when they themselves initiated number talk. These findings highlight the importance of parents’ prompts for enhancing the quality of parent–child math exchanges by providing opportunities for children to advance their current use of numerical language. Consequently, parents’ use of number-related prompts may play an important role in children’s early math engagement.