ERIC Identifier: ED372967
Publication Date: 1994-09-00
Author: Hartog, Martin D. - Brosnan, Patricia A.
ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education
Doing Mathematics with Your Child. ERIC/CSMEE Digest.
Parents have the wonderful opportunity and responsibility for nurturing
children. This nurturing process takes place in several areas of development:
physical, emotional, and intellectual. While parents can usually find time to
read a story to their children, thereby instilling a love for literature, they
are often at a loss as to how to instill a love and appreciation for
Like reading, mathematics is a subject that is indeed necessary for
functioning adequately in society. More than that, mathematics is a subject that
should be more enjoyable than it sometimes is. The National Council of Teachers
of Mathematics (NCTM) has identified the appreciation and enjoyment of
mathematics as one of the national goals for mathematics education. This goal,
coupled with the task of nurturing children's confidence in their ability to
apply their mathematical knowledge to solve real-life problems, is a challenge
facing every parent today.
This digest presents resources that will enable parents to fulfill their
responsibility for developing their children's abilities to do mathematics,
while at the same time encouraging more positive attitudes toward mathematics.
The resources are divided into three areas: (1) activities initiated in the
home; (2) activities initiated at school; and (3) special curriculum development
projects that promote parent involvement.
ACTIVITIES IN THE HOME
There are methods by which parents
can easily become involved in their children's mathematics education. Several
resources provide parents with games and activities that engage children in
mathematical thinking and problem solving and, at the same time, build their
self-confidence and appreciation for mathematics. An example of this type of
resource is the book Helping Your Child Learn Math. Published by the U.S.
Department of Education, the book contains 26 activities for children aged 5 to
13. The activities illustrate the mathematics that children can experience at
home, at the grocery store, and while traveling. Some meaningful activities on a
long car trip can alleviate the boredom that so often results in children
fighting with each other or asking repeatedly, "Are we there yet?"
Parents' attitudes toward mathematics have an impact on children's attitudes.
Children whose parents show an interest in and enthusiasm for mathematics around
the home will be more likely to develop that enthusiasm themselves. You Can Help
Your Young Child Learn Mathematics, available in both English and Spanish, helps
parents communicate the importance of mathematics to their children and become
more involved in their children's mathematical education. This book discusses
ways that parents can help their children develop good study habits, and it
presents activities through which families can make mathematics a part of their
daily lives as they travel, cook, garden, and play games.
Reading to children is a treasured activity in many homes. What better way to
integrate mathematics into the lives of children than to read them stories that
bring mathematical ideas to life? Children's books related to mathematics can be
separated into four categories: counting books, number books, storybooks, and
concept books. A bibliography of 159 children's books that make a significant
connection with mathematics, compiled by Stavroula K. Gailey and published in
the January 1993 issue of the Arithmetic Teacher, provides many excellent
suggestions for mathematical children's literature to read at home.
Math Matters: Kids Are Counting on You is a resource kit prepared by the
National Parent Teacher Association for parents who feel inadequate in helping
their children with mathematics. The kit's planning guide describes how local
PTAs can use the kit to encourage elementary school parents to become more
involved with their children's mathematics education. The kit contains the
planning guide, a booklet with 70 suggested math activities for the home, a
four-fold brochure summarizing the kit and its purpose, two posters, math
stickers, and a 7-minute videotape about the role of parents in opening up
opportunities for their children in mathematics.
Although more expensive and requiring extra equipment, technology can be
utilized by parents to provide mathematical activities for their children. The
best software packages are user friendly and highly interactive, and they offer
problems that challenge both students and parents. One exemplary software is The
Factory by WINGS. Available in both English and Spanish, this software simulates
the operation of a factory production line and requires the user to solve
problems involving flaws in production. Another potential resource is the public
library, where mathematics videos and computer software are available for use at
home or in the library.
WORKING WITH YOUR CHILD'S CLASSROOM TEACHER
mathematics learning that takes place at the parent's initiative, there are many
opportunities for parents and teachers to work cooperatively in enriching
children's experience with mathematics. These situations are likely to be the
most profitable for two reasons. First, children generally want to please both
their parents and their teachers. If they see that mathematics is important to
both their parents and their teacher, they will consider it important for
themselves too. Second, extending mathematical concepts from the classroom to
home will establish the idea that mathematics is not just a school subject, but
an everyday subject that makes life more interesting and understandable.
Parents who want to become more involved in their child's mathematical
education, but who are hesitant to take the initiative on their own, may want to
look to the teacher for guidance. Teachers can provide assistance in: (1)
setting up a system of home study; (2) helping parents understand the sequencing
of mathematical skill development; (3) suggesting materials and activities that
are entertaining and suitable for their child's level and which can be done in a
reasonable amount of time; (4) providing clear guidelines on how to use
materials; (5) giving feedback on the successes and failures of home activities;
and (6) knowing when to stop working with a child on an activity so that a good
working relationship is maintained.
Resources for this collaborative effort are myriad. For the elementary
grades, the Arithmetic Teacher (recently renamed Teaching Children Mathematics)
is a reliable resource for materials that establish the parent/teacher/student
connection. Every month the "Ideas" section contains activities for grades K-8
and an activity for the home, all related to a common topic. Another example is
the "Math Backpack," described in the February 1993 issue of the Arithmetic
Teacher. The Math Backpack contains samples of activities that second-graders
can do in their classroom, then take home and share with their parents. The
backpacks familiarize parents with teaching techniques, give children an
opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of mathematical concepts, and
engage both parents and children in investigative activities. One backpack
included activities for subtraction, pattern blocks, measurement, and telling
For the middle school level, a new journal published by NCTM, called
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, features a "Menu of Problems,"
including appetizers (easy, motivational problems), main courses (robust, solid
content problems), and desserts (challenging, intriguing problems). Another
monthly feature is the "Mathematics Investigator," which focuses on uses and
abuses of mathematics in the media.
In working with teachers, parents should not forget the opportunities that
homework assignments offer. Studies have shown that parents' participation in
students' homework can increase achievement. Moreover, the effect of that
involvement will be maximized if parents and teachers work together toward
common goals. It is important for parents to understand the system the teacher
is using to assign and evaluate homework, as well as the methods being used to
teach mathematical concepts. Helping children with homework can be
counterproductive if parents are working at cross purposes with the classroom
PROGRAMS PROMOTING PARENT INVOLVEMENT
mathematics education community is in the process of making changes in
curriculum, instruction, assessment, and in the level of parent involvement.
Over the past decade, increasing emphasis has been placed on the need to enhance
children's problem-solving capabilities by teaching from a hands-on perspective.
Teachers are being asked to incorporate manipulatives and technology into their
instruction, and programs are being developed that incorporate parental
involvement in reaching these goals.
Examples of such programs are Family Math and Family Computers, both
developed by Project EQUALS to help parents teach their children mathematics.
Besides providing learning activities that parents can do with their children,
Project EQUALS provides information on equity issues in mathematics education,
builds awareness of the importance of problem-solving skills and the ability to
talk about mathematics, and helps parents develop a positive attitude toward
their role in their children's mathematical education.
Programs often emerge from special needs. Many of the programs in the
resource list below address the need to improve the participation and
achievement of females and minorities in mathematics. All, however, stress the
indispensable part that parents can play in nurturing success in mathematics for
MATHEMATICS EDUCATION RESOURCES
The following items have been selected from PRIME: Parent Resources In
Mathematics Education, a longer annotated bibliography available for $1.95 from
ERIC/CSMEE, 1929 Kenny Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1080.
PARENT GUIDES FOR HOME ACTIVITIES
Apelman, M., & King, J. (1989). Pizzas, pennies and pumpkin seeds:
Mathematical activities for parents and children. Denver: Colorado State
Department of Education. (ED 327 395)
Arbanas, R. J., & Lindquist, G. R. (Eds.). (1989). Girls + Math + Science
= Choices: A handbook for parents. Marshall, MI: Calhoun Intermediate School
District. (ED 313 245)
Ashlock, R. B. (1990). Parents can help children learn mathematics.
Arithmetic Teacher, 38(3), 42-46.
Ford, M. S., & Crew, C. G. (1991). Table-top mathematics--A home-study
program for early childhood. Arithmetic Teacher, 38(8), 6-12.
Gailey, S. K. (1993). The mathematics--children's-literature connection.
Arithmetic Teacher, 40(5), 258-261.
Jacobs, J. W. (1989). Purr-r-r-fectly wild about mathematics. Arithmetic
Teacher, 37(4), 4-5.
Kanter, P. F., & Dorfman, C. H. (Eds.). (1992). Helping your child learn
math with activities for children aged 5 through 13. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education. (ED 355 122)
National Parent Teacher Association. (1989). Math matters: Kids are counting
on you. Chicago: The National PTA.
Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (1987). Help your child learn
math. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. (ED 280 676)
Office of Educational Research and Improvement. (1993). You can help your
young child learn mathematics (Usted puede ayudar a sus hijos a aprender
mathematicas). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. (ED 356 974)
Tregaskis, O. (1991). Parents and mathematical games. Arithmetic Teacher,
Bruneau, O. J. (1988). Involving parents in the mathematics education of
their young handicapped child. Arithmetic Teacher, 36(4), 16-18.
Flexer, R. J., & Topping, C. L. (1988). Mathematics on the home front.
Arithmetic Teacher, 36(2), 12-19.
Goldstein, S., & Campbell, F. A. (1991). Parents: A ready resource.
Arithmetic Teacher, 38(6), 124-127.
Orman, S. A. (1993). Mathematics backpacks: Making the home-school
connection. Arithmetic Teacher, 40(6), 306-308
PROGRAMS FOR PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
Anderson, L., & Stein, W. (1992). The American Indians in Mathematics
Project (AIM). Journal of Rural and Small Schools, 5(2), 24-31.
Caldwell, J. (1989). Families tackle math as a game--together. Equity and
Choice, 5(1), 21-23.
Goldberg, S. (1990). Developing and implementing a parental awareness program
to enhance children's mathematics performance and attitude. Unpublished doctoral
practicum, Nova University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (ED 327 383)
Joseph, H. (1993). Teaching mathematics with technology: Build parental
support for mathematics with family computers. Arithmetic Teacher, 40(7),
Merttens, R., & Vass, J. (1990). Sharing maths cultures: IMPACT
(Inventing Maths for Parents and Children and Teachers). Philadelphia: Falmer
Press. (ED 342 613)
O'Connell, S. R. (1992). Math pairs: Parents as partners. Arithmetic Teacher,
Stenmark, J., Thompson, V., & Cassey, R.. (1986). Family math. Berkeley,
CA: University of California, Lawrence Hall of Science.