Guest Post by Ellen Mulligan

Involving parents is a vital component in children’s math education.  There are many ways that teachers can suggest and invite parents to participate without adding undue stress and without demanding a lot of extra time.  One of the easiest ways is to share strategies that parents can conduct at home without making the activity seem like a math lesson.  Here are a few strategies to suggest to parents so that family engagement can increase outside of the classroom to provide support within it!

# Strategies for Parents:

• Everyone goes grocery shopping.  Groceries can be sorted in many different ways depending on the age of the child.  Very young children can say, “We can eat it, or we can’t eat it.”  Older children can separate into bottles, cans, boxes, bags, and other.  Always add an “other” category.  Children in upper elementary grades can arrange cans by decimal weight then discuss whether or not the heavier can will always be the biggest.
• Activities can also be done while traveling.  Have parents suggest that children find numbers during a car trip.  They can be found on buildings, billboards, etc.  Find them in order.  “I see a 1 on the mailbox.  I found a 2 on the license plate in front of us.”  Parents can also ask children to find route signs and add or multiply the digits found on each sign. Learning on the go is a great way to make the most of travel time!
• For even more great advice on teaching math at home, check out Ellen’s Parent Tips video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGcpG9P5Fyg

# Materials to Send Home:

• Another method of involving parents is to send home projects that are easily completed.  For example, parents can ask the children to create a tally chart form with four rooms of their choice as categories.  Next, tally the number of rectangles found in each of those rooms.  If the children have already been exposed to graphing, they can create a bar graph of the findings.  The most productive part of this activity is to write five statements from the findings, such as, “The kitchen has 12 more rectangles than the living room, or the bathroom has the least number of rectangles.”  Every statement should be a complete sentence.
• Teachers can also provide a newsletter at the beginning or end of each unit to let parents know what is coming up or what has been accomplished.  This may not ask the parents to complete a task, but it keeps them informed on what is happening in the classroom. Highlights of lessons can also be stated.
• Another great activity for parents is to actually discuss math with their children at home.  Many times, parents do not have these conversations because they may not be comfortable with initiating a discussion.  The teacher can provide a list of conversation starters at a parent conference.  The list may contain statements such as, “What is this problem asking you to find?” “What do you already know?” “Is there another way to do this problem?”  “What does the number nine mean to you?”  The object is to make the parent feel more comfortable with starting math conversations outside of the classroom.

# Make Learning Visual!

Finally, a great way to involve parents is to expose them to an actual lesson via webinar.  This will show how learning is taking place in the classroom and will provide a means of open communication. The very important word in that sentence is COMMUNICATION.

All of these suggestions can be easily embedded into the daily routine without a lot of extra preparation and the dividends are extraordinary!

Whatever you do, just remember the well-intentioned phrase – “Who is doing the thinking?”