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Topic: Tactic for Educating Parents
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 14,464
Registered: 12/3/04
Tactic for Educating Parents
Posted: Aug 18, 1999 4:28 PM
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<x-rich>>From The School Administrator, January 1999, p.34.

A Tactic for Educating Parents

by Diane Briars

Parents clearly play an important, influential role in mathematics
reform. Our experiences in

Pittsburgh (and those of other districts) dramatically illustrate the
need to provide substantial information to parents as well as the
consequences when they are not kept informed.

How can we enlist parents as allies rather than opponents to reform?
Here are four suggestions.

<fontfamily><param>Symbol</param>. </fontfamily> Make basic skills

Research by the Public Agenda Foundation shows that parents do want
their students to reason mathematically and develop problem-solving
skills. But first they want to be assured that their children will
learn the basics-the number facts and fundamental computation skills.
Ironically, math reform programs also expect students to learn the
basics. In fact, most programs expect more mental math capabilities
than traditional programs.

The problem is one of public relations. In their zeal to extol the
virtues and importance of problem solving, reformers stopped mentioning
the basics. We assumed that parents knew they would still be there.
This is a costly mistake! The basics must be clearly visible to parents
and the public.

<fontfamily><param>Symbol</param>. </fontfamily>Provide specific
information about how parents can help their children.

Most parents, especially parents of elementary students, want to help
their children learn math. Unfortunately, traditional ways of helping
(e.g., showing them how to do specific procedures) are not applicable
to standards-based programs.

Many reform programs are activitybased. Students keep journals instead
of using traditional textbooks. Thus parents do not have access to the
regular, specific information about what is going on in class that they
got from textbooks. Even if books do come home, their content often is
so different from parents' experiences that most are at a loss about
how to help their children.

Parents need specific direction about things they can do and ideas on
how to do it. Basic facts practice can certainly be a parental
responsibility. Even better, schools can offer a packet of games to
reinforce basic facts (and other concepts) in fun ways. Schools can
provide glossaries of mathematics terms, send notes to explain homework
activities that might be unfamiliar and conduct frequent parent
meetings to facilitate two-way communication.

<fontfamily><param>Symbol</param>. </fontfamily>Provide information on
assessment as well as curriculum and instruction.

If we want parents and the public to accept and value standards-based
assessments, we must inform them about the topic. Pittsburgh's director
of public relations, Pat Crawford, created a successful way to provide
such information.

During "Take the Test Night," parents answered sample questions from
our state and district tests, including the New Standards Reference
Exam, had dinner, then scored their own tests and discussed the
results. Parents were surprised at the level of questions on the NSRE
and clearly recognized it as a good test of their children's knowledge.
The news media gave good coverage to this event, so the public was also

<fontfamily><param>Symbol</param>. </fontfamily>Listen to parents.

Parental concerns and complaints are often well-founded. With
appropriate follow-up, they can provide valuable information about
faulty implementation of programs. The most common complaint I hear
about our elementary program is that students aren't learning their
basic facts.

When I ask parents if they have seen games coming home or if their
children mention playing games in school, and they say "no," the
problem is clear. Games are the primary vehicle for basic fact practice
in that program. By eliminating games, the teacher has eliminated the
basic fact practice from the program! The problem is implementation,
not the program and not the parents.

Many parents had terrible mathematics experiences when they were in
school so they want a better experience for their children. Most
parents are positive about standards-based reform once they understand
it, see it works and recognize they have a productive role to play.



Jerry P. Becker

Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction

Southern Illinois University

Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA

Fax: (618)453-4244

Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu


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