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Assessing Efficacy and Benefit of a Behavioral Math Talk Intervention for Caregivers of Young Children



Use of numerical and spatial language, also known as math talk, is critical to the development of foundational number and spatial skills in early childhood. However, caregivers and children of low socioeconomic status (SES) tend to use less math talk than their higher-SES peers.


The current efficacy study tested the hypothesis that quantity of math talk among low-SES caregivers and children is increased via a caregiver education curriculum aimed at improving caregivers’ language input to children.


Caregiver-child dyads (n = 37; children aged 17 to 36 months) participated in either the language input or a control intervention. Math talk (operationalized as number and spatial word tokens) was coded from video recordings of each dyad engaging in free play at three time points: baseline, post-intervention, and follow-up.


The language input curriculum significantly increased caregivers’ amount of spatial talk and cildren’s amount of number and spatial talk for up to 4 months after the intervention.


A caregiver education intervention increased caregivers’ use of math talk, which resulted in higher math talk usage by their children. Further verification is needed through an adequately powered longitudinal randomized controlled trial.

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Availability of Data and Material

The data and materials for all experiments are available upon request from the corresponding author. The study was not preregistered.


  1. Information on additional analyses controlling for overall speech as well as overall number and spatial tokens is available upon request.


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We would like to thank the participating families for so generously allowing us into their homes and for devoting a significant amount of their time to this study. The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone, and endorsement by the authors’ Institutions is not intended and should not be inferred.


This work was supported by a Clinical and Translational Science Award [UL1 RR 024999, KL2 RR 025000] and by the Hemera Regnant Foundation. None of the funders or sponsors of this research had any role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Dana Suskind.

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None of the authors reported any financial or other conflicts of interest in relation to the work described.

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The authors affirm having followed professional ethical guidelines in preparing this work. These guidelines include obtaining informed consent from human participants, maintaining ethical treatment and respect for the rights of human or animal participants, and ensuring the privacy of participants and their data, such as ensuring that individual participants cannot be identified in reported results or from publicly available original or archival data.

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He, S., Graf, E., Webber, R.J. et al. Assessing Efficacy and Benefit of a Behavioral Math Talk Intervention for Caregivers of Young Children. Child Youth Care Forum (2022).

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  • Math talk
  • Parenting style/process
  • Social class/SES
  • Parent–child communication
  • Conversation/dialogue
  • Lexical development