Series: Ideas at Work

We’re Going on a Math Walk, Going to Find Some Math Talk

We’re Going on a Math Walk, Going to Find Some Math Talk
math talk_636x363

Going for walks is an excellent time to talk about math with your child. You’ll be surprised how much math talk you can have when you look for the math in your very own neighborhood.

Spark your child’s curiosity by noticing numbers, shapes, and sizes of things when you’re out and about. On one day you can focus on counting—everything from the number of stairs to go down, how long to wait for the green light, or the dogs out for a walk. Another time, look at the lines on the buildings and talk about straight lines and curved lines. On another day you can use your fingers to keep track of how many circles or squares you see.

This is not a test for children. A math walk should be fun and enjoyable for you and your child. The moment it stops being fun, it’s time to stop. But, you’re likely to find your child will be pleased with your attention and will start making suggestions to you of what to count and talk about next.

Every neighborhood has interesting math all around. To give you some ideas, we’ve included some pictures from a neighborhood in Chicago.


  • “How many stairs are there to get from the sidewalk up to our front door? 1-2-3-4. We went up 4 steps. Let’s go back down now: 4-3-2-1.”
  • How many cars will we see as we walk around the block?”
  • Yesterday we counted red cars. Let’s count emergency vehicles today….Today we saw cars and bicycles, but no emergency vehicles.”
  • “Let’s use our fingers to keep track of how many tall dogs and how many short dogs we see.” (you can change what you count, depending on your child’s interests)
  • “I spy a ring around the tree. Let’s step on each stone and count them as we go around.”
math talk walk

Number Sense

  • For a preschooler, you may want to stop counting stairs when there are only 2 more stairs left and ask, “How many more do we need to reach the top?”
  • Would there be the same number of stairs going down? How could you know?”
  • “Do you think they have the same number of stairs at the white house? the red brick house?”


  • “I spy bricks that have a rectangle shape. They all have straight lines and they have 4 sides. Can you find other rectangles?”
  • “Besides windows and doors, can you find other things that have 4 sides?” (bricks, gate, sidewalk sections, shutters)
  • “You found many shapes with straight lines. Can we find any curved lines?” (decorative scrolling in hand railing, awnings, lamppost)
  • A child might say that the roof of the house that is brick with white trim is a triangle, but you would say “It looks like a triangle, but it’s missing one side. Triangles have 3 sides.”
math talk walk bricks

Spatial Relationships

  • “The snow is on the grass, on top of the bush, but not on the stairs.”
  • “Look at that squirrel jump between the trees! Where is it going next?”
  • “Let’s step over this small puddle, but go around that large puddle.”
  • “Let’s walk backwards. What other silly ways can we walk?”