Parents as Allies

Young children are mathematically inquisitive; they want to know who’s taller, who has more toys, who has the bigger room, etc. Early math, then, is not centered around calculation but is about nurturing their mathematical inquisitiveness; calculation and numerical fluency will follow.

As teachers we’ve been ‘trained’ to do this, but what do we tell the parents of our young students; where can we send them for assistance.

One of the challenges facing classroom teachers is choosing how to involve parents/families in the math education of their children. Frequently, as a math teacher educator I hear about ‘negative’ parental involvement.

Negative involvement occurs in many ways, but I’ll mention three of the more prevalent.

  • parents who ‘tell’ their children the answer
  • parents who communicate the fixed mindset message (e.g. I wasn’t good at math either.)
  • parents who complain about your pedagogy, curriculum, or a combination of the two.

Let’s put a positive ‘spin’ on these parental choices; parents don’t know what else to do.

Creating a Mathematically Rich Home

I’ll focus on some web-based suggestions that, hopefully, will support parents of young children (early childhood). In my next blog post, I’ll provide links for parents/families of elementary age and older children.

Becoming a Math Family (https://becomingamathfamily.uchicago.edu/)

This site is focused on helping families support children from ages 3 – 6. What I like most about this site is that the activities are designed for parents to do with their children, because learning math is a social process. There is other content such as suggestions for parents, videos, etc.

Math at Home (http://mathathome.org/)

This site is focused on fostering the development of math skills of children between birth and 5 years of age. There are pages that provide knowledge for parents, as well as suggested lessons, and a free online course aimed at early childhood educators.

Bedtime Math (http://bedtimemath.org/)

This has been my graduate math education students’ favorite for a long time. Every day this site provides a ‘math’ story that can be read to children at bedtime (ages 2 – 5). Each story is followed by a question (3 ‘age’ levels). In addition, there are suggestions for after-school math clubs, libraries, and educators. There’s also an app for mobile devices which makes story reading at bedtime a ‘snap’.

By the way, there’s (relatively) new research support published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000490 which indicates that interventions involving parents and children together can have long term positive effects on the children’s learning.

I’m sure there are more websites that are ‘aimed’ at parents. Many of them, however, were developed as Home School curriculum supplements. I hope you’ll avoid the ones which feature endless worksheets and little or no inquiry/discovery. Choose carefully; select those which supplement your instruction. There are many activities which are fun, educational, and can enhance your students’ learning.

Parents should be urged to find math in the everyday lives of their children; counting objects around the house, recognizing various 2 and 3 -dim shapes, counting down with the ‘walk timers’ at major intersections, discussing the percentages on every nutrition label, comparing the metric measures on bottles, trying to ‘make sense’ of the statistical survey summaries presented on the evening news or newspapers, etc.

Number talks, especially on Mondays, can be prompted by “What math did you see, do, or discuss at home over the weekend?” There are no right or wrong answers, the prompt accommodates the diversity of students found in your classroom, and can be extended by connecting some of the weekend activities to your instructional topics. Wouldn’t you love to have so many responses you’d be pressed to keep this Number Talk within the allotted time?

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