Parents these days are more than a little aware of the importance of encouraging their children to excel at math. Early success can bode well for opportunities later on in promising STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – professions, after all.

Yet not enough moms and dads know how they can help their kids off to a good start in that department. Some of the best things parents can do, Vanderbilt University psychologists Erica Zippert and Bethany Rittle-Johnson explain, is to get their preschoolers to play with puzzles, cards and patterns.

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Those shapes may prove as constructive as the numbers. NadyaEugene/

How to get preschoolers ready to learn math

Erica Zippert, Vanderbilt University; Bethany Rittle-Johnson, Vanderbilt University

On top of teaching them how to recognize numbers and count to 10, make sure they're playing with puzzles.

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