CHICAGO (CBS) — Was math the one subject that simply didn’t add up for you in school? Plenty of students struggle with mastering mathematics, but a new program is finding that starting early with a different approach can really pay off.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports on the new approach to teaching math to preschoolers.

In Jennifer Meath’s preschool classroom at Washington D. Smyser Elementary School, even when it’s reading time, it’s always math time, too.

While reading from “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood, the students stack up plastic cubes, adding one each time a character jumps into bed for a nap.

It’s the new math for preschoolers: integrating math into every subject, every activity, every day.

Meath said, as a result, her kids are more confident in their math skills.

“Definitely. The kids are showing much more confidence and much more comfort,” she said.

The Chicago-based Erikson Institute, a graduate school specializing in child development, has trained 300 preschool and kindergarten teachers from Chicago Public Schools in the new approach. Their studies show, over the course of a full school year, the new approach to math works.

“The students whose teachers were in our project learned about three months – and some of them even four or five months – more math than the kids who … weren’t in our project,” instructional coordinator Lisa Ginet said.

At Smyser, Maeth folds math into everything, from taking attendance to checking the calendar.

The kid even plays counting games on air guitar.

In 2007, the Erikson Institute found that less than 25 percent of CPS preschool teachers were doing math instruction on any given day.

Early understanding of math is one of the biggest predictors of achievement in both math and reading in later years.

Erikson has a new grant to train 100 more CPS preschool teachers. It’s sorely needed, because many preschool teachers have a weak foundation in math themselves. And, because they don’t feel confident in it, they shy away from teaching it, as well.