Teaching Feminism: Bedtime Story Problems

Welcome to Teaching Feminism, a series about equality in the classroom. Teaching feminism is about so much more than teaching girls. We need to teach all of our students to respect everyone, no matter what. Teaching feminism talks about just that. Have your own story about these issues? Share it here.

As a kid, I would relish in picking out just the right book for bedtime. My parents would read me a story before I went to bed each night, and it was always something I looked forward to. In retrospect, I probably enjoyed these bedtime stories partially because they put off bedtime for just a litte bit longer, and partially because they allowed me to escape to a different world for a little bit, allowing me to clear my mind before sleep. Even now, though, I find it difficult to fall asleep if I don’t spend some time reading before bed. This absolutely fostered a love of literature and reading in me from a very young age, and had I not had this experience, I might not have become an English major in undergrad and gone on to teach high school English.

My story is probably not unique. Lots of parents read to their kids before going to bed, and it’s a great practice to get into. What if we replaced bedtime stories with bedtime story problems, though? What impact would it have on our children to do math rather than read before bed? Would more students — particularly girls — become interested in math as they grew older?

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck did just that with her children, and she even has a website totally devoted to the topic. There, she posts problems for kids of all ages — and the answers, so don’t worry if you’re not that good at math yourself! — to complete before bedtime. The site has even drawn attention from news outlets like NPR, where readers have shared their own stories about bedtime math.

While I would never discourage you from reading your kids a good bedtime story, bedtime math can be a great way to get kids, especially girls, involved with math from a very young age. This is important because, although there is no difference in math ability between girls and boys, girls do tend to suffer more from math anxiety than their male counterparts. If parents can expose their children to math in a fun, comforting environment, this can help alleviate math anxiety in school. If using bedtime stories is important to foster a love of reading in children, then the same can definitely be said for using bedtime math. Students who love a subject are more likely not to experience anxiety when it comes to that subject in school.

Furthermore, with so few young women taking advanced math and science courses — and, therefore, entering professions that require math and science — it’s important that we teach girls that math isn’t just for boys, and Barbie was wrong when she said, “Math class is tough!” By encouraging girls to practice math at home, it sends a strong message that they can be good at math, too.

Related Stories:

Girls Can Do Math Just Fine, Thanks

The Myth of the “Girl Brain”

Are Math and Science the Only Subjects Worth Studying?

Photo Credit: futurestreet


Amit A.
Amit A.2 years ago


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

do both

K Lyden
K Lyden4 years ago

there's no reason why you can't do both. there are plenty of books that encorporate math & problem solving concepts (which is a big part of math, especially later on) . and there are plenty of books (like the paper bag princess) that teach strong female roles. pick or three books-- one science/math, one social responsibility/gender roles (that boys/girls can both do anything), and one for fun ... go the your local library to get more variety; try used book stores; borrow from friends; ask teachers (or local early childhood education college instructors) for book ideas with certain themes..

char l.
Past Member 4 years ago

I don't have kids, but I fall asleep every night doing sudoku! Fun, challenging, but also very relaxing. I suppose any math could be the same!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

...... I should have added ... bad for girls AND boys to hear, because if we don't raise enlightened boys, female status will not become equal.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

Good achievement by that mom. When I read the title, I thought I would hear about how hard it is to read the "old" stories, where girls were saved by boys, etc. -- the old literature, though cherished in our minds, is rife with misogyny, and bad for girls to hear.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago


Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago


Terry V.
Terry V.4 years ago


Betsy M.
Betsy M.4 years ago

If you have math anxiety yourself, don't do this without a lot of guidance. Just like you would not read King Lear or Macbeth at bedtime, but reading is OK, there are easy, fun math situations you can discuss at bedtime. This is not a time to challenge kids, or LEARN math. Just have fun. For instance, ¨you want to give 2 bunnies a carrot apiece, but you have 3 carrots. How many carrots would be left over." Kids will have fun, laugh, suggest breaking the extra carrot to split it between the bunnies, talk about what if one bunny does not like carrots... You are trying to normalize math, not teach it here. Understand math, reading, thinking... as a comfortable part of everyday life.