Monday, November 12, 2007

Making Math Connections

It's been a short and frenzied two weeks since parent conferences and the following early morning's decision to host a parent math night in response to parent's genuine questions about the new focus on conceptual understanding of mathematics. The questions emanated from a true desire to help their children and to feel that the education of their children is a partnership between parents and the school. The questions were many and varied.
          • What does my child do in math class?
          • Why isn't the homework the same?
          • Why is there so much writing in math class?
          • How can I help my child at home?
The answers and explanations can, at best, merely begin to address the larger philosophy of mathematics pedagogy and their child's progress within it during a short twenty minute conference. And so, three teachers and a principal quickly harnessed their energy and brainstormed the idea of holding a Parent Math Night- sooner rather than later. Checking school calendars, Tuesday, November 13 was selected. At an impromptu faculty meeting called at the end of that day, the rest of the teaching staff learned of the idea and were encouraged to become involved.

And did they ever become involved!

Twenty-two teachers,

volunteering to give their time,

share their knowledge,

and join in embracing parents as partners in the education of children.

The K-12 Math Supervisor and two math coaches were consulted. And a plan for the evening meeting was hatched. The focus would be to help parents to better understand the the NCTM Standards which were the basis for our newly revised mathematics curriculum. We would teach the parents math lessons, just as their children experienced them. Throughout the lessons, teachers would engage the parents in discussions of their problem solving strategies, alternate ways to represent the mathematical concept, and meaningful ways in which the concept interconnected with other mathematical concepts and with the real world. They would encourage them to communicate their ideas both orally and in writing, using mathematical language. We fully expect the parents to have an understanding of the concepts we teach to them, but want them to explore why the algorithm works the way it does. Teachers stepped up to the place, volunteering to lead and facilitate two lessons- teaching regrouping in addition (or subtraction) and the multiplication of fractions.

An article, "Tying It All Together" in the most recent NCTM publication, Teaching Children Mathematics offered the idea of using a simple four-part chart to record multiple representations of a concept. We revised the chart for our purpose and audience and planned to use it as a tool for parents to record their mathematical experiences from the evening. At an inservice a week ago, teachers were shown the video "Mathematics: What Are You Teaching My Child" with Marilyn Burns. Upon viewing it themselves, committee members were sure it was the perfect visual introduction for immersing parents in the world of their childen's math classes.

What else was needed?

A flyer inviting parents to the evening.
An offer of babysitting services.
Handouts to guide and record parents' thinking.
An evaluation form for the eveing.
Resources to show and share.
A parent's toolbox with ideas of how to help with math at home.

The agenda for the evening began to take shape.

Parent Math Night

Schedule for the Evening

7:00 Introductions –Principal Vincent School

7:05 Overview of Math - Supervisor of K-12 Mathematics

7:15 Video – Mathematics: What Are You Teaching My Child?

7:40 Move to Tables for Mathematics Lesson

Blue Dot Group - Regrouping Exploration

Red Dot Group - Multiplication of Fractions Exploration

7:55 Move to second Lesson Session

Blue Dot Group - Multiplication of Fractions Exploration

Red Dot Group - Regrouping Exploration

8:10 Reconvene as whole group for Review of experiences

8:20 How can you help?

8:25 Closing – Thank you for coming.
Please complete and turn in your evaluation form at the door.

I think we have a pretty awesome evening planned. What has been nagging at me is the fact that we will only reach an interested, yet small portion of our parent audience. What I really would like to see is a way to involve all the other parents at home.

Maybe I should UStream the whole evening.
What do you think?

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