Teaching Math With Laundry


Laundry is an important life skill—and a shared activity that can teach your child many math concepts that will lead to school success. Whether you're washing, fluffing and folding at home or at the laundromat, you can use this recurring chore to build a strong foundation for later math learning while promoting your child's independence.

Gather Materials

  • Dirty laundry
  • Laundry baskets

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that you feel are safe for your child and that you are comfortable letting your child use.


When we do laundry, we use "attributes" to organize every aspect of the laundry cycle, from washing, drying and folding to putting away the clean clothes.

Attributes in early mathematics include size, shape and color. Talking about attributes encourages children to look more closely at things. Sorting things into categories is one of the ways that mathematics enters into our daily life. So grab your child and your dirty laundry and let the math learning begin!

Make sure there are enough baskets or piles to accommodate your child's sorting categories. Every family sorts differently. You can sort by color, size, kid's clothing, mom's shirts, dad's jeans, etc. I like to add one piece of clothing to each pile to give children a sense of what type of clothing they should add next.

Our family turned this into a tossing game. It's a great way to work on hand-eye coordination. We're also a bit competitive, so any time that I can turn a chore into a game, it's a win-win for me!

After sorting, ask your child to carry a basket and load the washer. This will help promote muscle function and balance.

Laundry presents a lot of counting opportunities. Ask your child to count the clothes as he or she puts each item into the washing machine. As your child counts, make sure the verbal count corresponds to the number of clothing items that are loaded into the washer. For example, if your child has counted five pieces of clothing as he or she loads the washing machine, make sure there are five items in there. This is known as number sense.

Measure the soap. This can be as simple as asking your child to hold the cup while you pour. You can also ask your child to put the soap into the washing machine. You know your child, the size of the soap container and your child's developmental abilities. Sneak early math skills such as measuring and sequencing into your child's life whenever it's developmentally appropriate.

Once the clean clothes have been removed from the dryer, the sorting and matching begins again. While matching socks and pajamas, your child will learn that pairs come in sets of two.

Matching soccer uniforms or sorting clothes by family member gives children more experience with different types of attributes. Our family's competitive spirit often prevails during this activity: We predict which family member will have the most items, the fewest items or the most athletic gear. This is math vocabulary in the making!

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