Blogger Children and Technology Committee

Integrating Technology into Public Library Programs with Bedtime Math

For many public libraries, 2022 saw a slow but gradual return to in-person programming after two years of services altered or disrupted by the pandemic. This past summer was the closest my branch has been to “normal” programming, and we finally hosted our first big school night since 2019 in December.

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Like other libraries, the long pause has forced us to reassess needs and rethink the programming and services we invest in. Finding ways to expand access to out-of-school learning and creating opportunities for families to engage with each other? are both priorities for my team. So, when a librarian on my staff proposed the idea of creating a series of math enrichment programs last summer, I was all in.   

The six-week program was very well-received, and we saw high family engagement throughout. Each session featured a math-themed book and a related hands-on activity. One of the most successful elements, however, was the integration of technology. Each program in the series began with a “Math Problem of the Day” from Bedtime Math, a free app (iOS/Android) to help families make simple, math-related talk a regular part of their day.   

What made Bedtime Math work well in a public library setting? 

Screenshot of Bedtime Math App showing two Question of the Day selections, one for Little Kids and one for Big Kids.
Screenshot from the Bedtime Math App showing Question of the Day selections for Big Kids and Little Kids.
  • It was a great way to set the tone. Having the librarian facilitate a conversation around problem-solving and involving the whole group helped build excitement for activities later in the program. There is research showing that “Math Talk” techniques help children see themselves as valued mathematical thinkers and can motivate them to learn.
  • One of the great features of this app is that it provides a leveled approach. Public library programs tend to draw a range of ages and abilities, so having a variety of challenges was important. Working through all three levels of the “Math Problem of the Day” as a group ensured that all participants felt included. 
  • It was a fantastic way to highlight and demonstrate an accessible resource for parents and caregivers. It’s an ideal family math tool – a way to promote math activities within the context of family relationships and everyday life, and empower caregivers with a free tool to start conversations around mathematical concepts.
  • We wrapped up the series with a sandbox session – a librarian-facilitated free-play program – designed to introduce families to a variety of vetted math apps on our mobile iPad lab. This provided natural opportunities to engage in media mentor conversations around recommended apps, screen time, and other resources like CommonSense Media.
Screenshot from iPad of math apps, including Bedtime Math, Fiete Match, Space by TinyBop, Scratch Jr, Slice Fractions, Tynker Jr, Prodigy Math, Khan Academy Kids, Vroom, Nasa, SplashLearn, Monster Math, Moose Math, Solar System and Fiete Math.
Screenshot of math apps shared during Baltimore County Public Library’s Summer Math Series at the Owings Mills Branch. Apps include Bedtime Math, Prodigy Math, Slice Fractions, Khan Academy Kids, and Fiete Math.

Considerations when choosing technology for programming

As a manager, I try to encourage my team to think about thoughtful ways to integrate technology into program design and delivery, but I know it doesn’t always come naturally. Here are some things we consider when bringing technology into a public library program: 

  • Does the technology element add value to the program, or is it likely to be a distraction? 
  • Is it appropriate for the audience?
  • How will we introduce and model the technology?
  • How do we envision participants interacting with technology during the program?
  • Are we building the program around the technology element? If so, think about why:
    • Are we demonstrating a tool for learning or enrichment?
    • Are we providing access to something that may not be readily available to all?
  • Is this a free app or website families can access at home? if it is not free, does the library provide access in some way, either through its spaces or collections?
  • Will including this element spark conversation with parents and caregivers around children’s use of media, and if so is the library prepared for those conversations?

What are some successful ways you have integrated technology into public library programming?  

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, III. Programming Skills

Additional Resources:

SLJ 10 Podcasts about Math for K-12 Students (https://www.slj.com/story/10-podcasts-math-students-kidcasts-librarians)

Making Space for Math in the Library (https://www.slj.com/story/making-space-for-math-in-the-library-stem)

Family Math (https://nafsce.org/page/familymath)

Anna White has worked in public libraries for more than 14 years. She currently manages the Owings Mills Branch of Baltimore County Public Library in Maryland where she helped create and implement media mentorship resources for library staff. She joined the ALSC Children & Technology Committee in 2022.

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