Family Math Is More Than Homework Help

Jul 10, 2024 12:48:07 PM

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Family Math Is More Than Homework Help
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Family math is more than homework help. It integrates math into the fabric of everyday life and empowers families to become active partners in their child's mathematical journey.

From cooking together to managing finances, opportunities for mathematical engagement are everywhere. And children are ready and eager to learn. Research shows when schools, families, and communities work together on specific math activities, it boosts children’s math skills and helps them do better in school, reinforcing the impact of these everyday math conversations on a child's academic and life outcomes.

Mathematics is the cornerstone of education, universally recognized for its importance in shaping students' academic and real-world success.

Yet, there's a pressing need for change in how we teach math. There is a disconnect between the perceived importance of math education and students' lived experiences in classrooms across America. As educators, parents, and policymakers, it's time that we address this gap and strive to make math more relevant and engaging for all Pre-K-12 students.

A robust survey of U.S. adults shows that 90 percent of respondents think math needs updating, with 60 percent saying it’s “very” or “extremely” important, more than any other subject. This sentiment is echoed across racial demographic groups, emphasizing the universal desire for refinement in math education.

There's a significant gap between the ideal math education—relevant, engaging, and practical—and the current reality.

Math curriculum must move beyond rote memorization and formulaic problem-solving; it’s not a subject for students to endure but a tool they should embrace, a tool that empowers students to navigate the world's complexities with confidence and competence.

Traditional math instruction often fails to keep pace with societal and technological advancements. As a result, too many students perceive classroom math as useless for “real life.”

So, how do we bridge this gap between aspiration and reality? The solution lies in cultivating authentic family and community engagement experiences, using the Standards for Mathematical Practice as our guide.

The Standards for Mathematical Practice from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and National Research Council can serve as a framework for designing authentic math experiences through family and community engagement. The eight practice standards focus on important skills that help students develop in math.

These skills include problem-solving, reasoning, communicating ideas, using different ways to show math concepts, and seeing how math connects to real life. They also emphasize skills like flexible thinking, understanding concepts deeply, doing math procedures accurately, and having a positive attitude toward math.

The Standards for Mathematical Practice encourage students to think carefully and not give up when solving challenging problems. They help students apply math to everyday situations and explain their reasoning clearly. The standards also guide students to use tools and models effectively, pay attention to details, and find patterns in math problems. These skills are crucial to prepare students to succeed in school and beyond.

Integrating the Standards for Mathematical Practice into family math celebrates every child's genius. Mathematical learning transcends the confines of the classroom, becoming a dynamic and inclusive experience. Authentic family engagement unlocks new pathways to mathematical understanding and fosters a lifelong love for learning.

Here's how it can work:

  • Problem-solving becomes a family affair: Families tackle real-life problems together, applying the principles of perseverance and critical thinking.
  • Mathematical reasoning in everyday contexts: Children learn to reason abstractly and quantitatively within familiar settings, from grocery shopping to planning a family vacation.
  • Encourage dialogue and debate: Family discussions around mathematical concepts foster communication skills and the ability to construct and critique arguments.
  • Model real-world scenarios: Whether calculating the cost of a meal or analyzing sports statistics, families use mathematical models to make sense of the world around them.
  • Strategic tool selection: Families learn to use mathematical tools strategically in various situations, from calculators to measuring cups.
  • Precision in everyday tasks: Measure twice, cut once when building something, or be precise when adding ingredients to bake a cake or managing time. Attention to precision becomes second nature in family math activities.
  • Recognize patterns in daily routines: Families uncover mathematical structures and patterns in everything from the structure of the natural world to household routines.
  • Identifying regularities and generalizations: By reflecting on repeated experiences, families can better understand mathematical concepts and their applications.

Shakiyya Bland

Shakiyya Bland is a longtime math educator and curriculum specialist with deep experience in culturally responsive education. She was an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow in 2020-22, serving in the U.S. Congress and Department of the Interior. In 2022, Shakiyya joined Just Equations as Math Educator in Residence.

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