Word by Word: Everyday Math Talk in the Homes of Hispanic Families

Alexandra Mendelsohn, Catalina Suárez-Rivera, Daniel D. Suh, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children learn math concepts long before they enter school. Across all cultures, children are exposed to number and spatial language to varying degrees during everyday home routines. Yet most studies of math talk occur in the lab and target non-Hispanic, English-speaking families. We expanded inquiry to the spontaneous math language (i.e., number and spatial language) of Spanish-speaking mothers and their 1- to 2-year-olds (N = 50) during home activities. Mothers varied enormously in their use of math language, and mother math language related to toddler math language, whereas mother non-math language did not. Children’s math language both preceded and followed mother math talk, suggesting imitation and reinforcement as important processes in children’s math language learning. Children also produced math language outside the context of mother input. Findings advance an understanding of children’s early math language in natural settings and have implications for interventions aimed at promoting math skills in toddlers from diverse backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-403
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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