Last June I attended the Cognitively Guided Instruction conference in Seattle and one of the things that really resonated with me was the number of projects around mathematics that schools were working on that had a focus on involving families and connecting to the community. We were asked to commit to “one thing” to connect our learning at the conference to our work in our contexts for the following school year and my one thing was:
Before the CGI conference, I might have used the term parent involvement instead of family engagement but the conference nudged my thinking – there are many people taking care of our students – parents, grandparents, siblings, legal guardians and caregivers. The term “family” is more inclusive and the term engagement rather than involvement is more representative of what our hopes and goals are.
Over the past few years, I have done several event for school and district PACs as well as our annual Learning and the Brain conference for parents. This year I did two outreach interactive sessions about mathematics for parents through the Richmond Public Library, coordinated by our Settlement Workers in Schools program.
Increasing parent engagement and making mathematics education visible in our community area areas and goals that I am going to continue to focus on. Suggestions welcome!
Many parents, guardians and caregivers of our students have questions about the “new” mathematics curriculum and my short response is usually: the content has not changed significantly and new content has been added in the area of financial literacy and more learning standards and big ideas around computational fluency have been added. Those changes were part of the feedback cycle in the curriculum redesign. Parents had many opportunities to provide feedback through stakeholder meetings across the province (and within our district) as well as being able to provide online feedback. Beyond the core content (knowledge) at each grade level, other elements that are part of the curriculum redesign, and not just in mathematics, is the focus on core competencies, curricular competencies, weaving in Indigenous knowledge and perspectives and considering a range of instructional approaches to be inclusive of the diverse learners in our classrooms.
The BC Ministry of Education has provided information for parents on the curriculum redesign on their website and this information is available in four languages (tabs at top of website):
Beginning this year (not including 2018 grade 12 students) students will need to pass a Graduation Numeracy Assessment as part of their graduation requirements. We need to help communicate to our parent community that this is not a “mathematics” exam and is not connected to a specific mathematics grade or course. The Ministry has provided information for parents on the Graduation Numeracy assessment that you can share with them:
We had one pages of the Ministry document translated into Chinese for our parent community for those schools that were part of the gradual implementation of the assessment in January:
Table Talk Math is a website and book created by John Stevens. In it he shares ways parents can engage in talking about mathematics with their children at home. He has a weekly newsletter that parents and teachers can subscribe to on his website. John’s five-minute Ignite talk is shared on his site. At the end of his talk (with teachers as the intended audience), he suggests four calls to action for educators to work in partnership with their students’ parents:
- celebrate parent involvement
- show your students’ parents that you care
- show parents how they can help
- help parents help their kids be amazing
And here is a collection of suggestions for parents that I have shared at various district and public events:
I am in the process of drafting a parent information bulletin for our school district, which will be translated into multiple languages once it is finalized. Look for it this September!
As we think about ways to engage families in mathematics, here are some questions to consider…
- What do your students and their families think about mathematics? What are their feelings and beliefs?
- How are we sharing information about the mathematics curriculum with families?
- Do your students and their families see themselves represented in mathematical learning experiences at school?
- How do you make use of your families’ cultural assets in our mathematics learning experiences in schools?
- How are we sharing and communicating our students’ mathematical thinking and learning to families?
- How do we create reciprocal learning opportunities in mathematics between families and the school context?
- What opportunities do we create to connect mathematical learning to our local community?
- How are families engaged with mathematics learning in our classrooms and schools?