How do you find the parents of your students? Are they helping their children to learn, or are they more of a hindrance?

Some parents can be incredibly difficult to cope with, of course. And sometimes an assertive manner and explaining the boundaries between their opinions and your professional work is called for.

But apart from those difficult parents, I strongly believe that parents should be kept informed about what we are teaching, and generally we should involve them as partners in their children’s education.

If you are going through a hard time coping with the parents of your students, please forgive me if my comments are off base or have caused you any offence; that is never my intention.

But if you agree that working with parents is a good thing, do share your tips below on how to achieve this goal.

What are pseudocontexts, and should K-6 math teachers be concerned about them?

I came across the term in Dan Meyer’s excellent blog, in which he explores better ways of engaging students in learning math, and calls out “fake math” and poor teaching. You should go check out Dan’s work, I find it really challenging and encouraging.

As a publisher of educational content for K-6 math, I am deeply concerned about students’ recognition of the importance and the usefulness, the utility of the math they learn.

This means that I am always looking for ways to show students examples of math in real life. But does that mean I have to restrict my examples to ones where someone is asking a specific math question that matches the topic students are learning, or can I ask questions which someone might ask, but probably didn’t?

What do you think? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts.

Recent examples of “math in real life contexts” are found in my Where’s the Math? video series, which you can see here. Am I guilty of introducing pseudocontexts?

In the busyness of classroom teaching, do you find math lessons becoming a bit stale? Are textbook lessons getting you and your students down a bit?

I believe that students crave interesting, relevant lessons, especially in math. How can we provide such lessons?

It’s a simple idea: find real math going on in the world around you and bring it to the children’s attention.

In the video I talk a bit about the new kitchen we’re having put in. There’s a heap of math that the builders have to get right, including measurement, simple arithmetic and three-dimensional geometry.

What can you talk about with your students? Here are some ideas:

Real-Life Contexts for K-6 Math: Some Suggestions

Take photos with your smartphone, add them to PowerPoint slides, ask students “What do you notice?” or “What questions are you thinking of?”

Talk about shopping experiences where you had to figure out a best buy, someone gave you the wrong change or something cool happened

Explain how you adapted a recipe for a different number of servings

Talk about your favourite sport and how rankings work, and how many points teams have to win to come out on top this season

Talk about designing something cool, such as a garden, a craft project, a greeting card or a decorated cake

What ideas have you used to bring classroom math to life? Leave a comment below.

Do you wonder about the wisdom of sending math homework home? Have you ever had a sneaky suspicion that parents may actually not be helping their kids learn math?

Well, now there’s evidence that supports your caution.

Research: Do Parents Help, or Hinder Their Kids’ Math Learning?

If you have any interest in helping kids with their math learning, I urge you to watch the video, then go and read this article:

Briefly, the findings of this year-long research using children in grades 1 and 2 and their parents were:

Parents who reported math anxiety themselves, and who helped their children with math homework resulted in children who:

were more anxious about math themselves

learned less math over the year

Reading scores were not affected

Parents who did not help with math homework had no significant effect

This is a hugely important set of findings. I believe all K-6 math teachers should address the issues here, for the sake of their students’ learning.

Suggestions for Every K-6 Math Teacher:

Don’t set math homework that is likely to cause stress or anxiety in parents who themselves are not confident in math

Talk to parents about the messages they send (often unwittingly) to their children about math and math learning

Make suggestions to parents about low-stress ways to help their kids with math

Point out everyday activities that parents could use as springboards for incidental math conversations:

Shopping

Cooking

Budgeting

Deciding what to buy

Keeping track of sports scores, race times, etc.

Playing board games and dice games

Urge parents to let their children know that they believe in their children’s future success in math and to talk positively about how useful math is to all adults

Who knew? Math is important. Like, really, really important.

We shouldn’t even need to say this, surely? Our kids need to grow up being good at math.

Watch the video:

Western Nations Spend More on Math, and Get Lower Results

And yet, despite most ordinary folks agreeing that math is a vital part of kids’ schooling, in western democratic nations we seem to be spending less time on math teaching, and getting lower results.

If you’re a teacher I’m confident that you believe in the value of a good mathematical education. But at the same time, you’re far from being alone if you find students seem to be less engaged and less proficient at math as time goes on.

Do you need ammunition to make math excellence a priority for your students?

Think on this: in 2016, terrorists are as likely to carry a laptop as a bomb. And they are probably in a basement somewhere, not risking being found out in the open.
Want to try that line “We don’t really need to be all that good at math, now we all have smartphones” again? I thought not.

Math is Important: We Should Spend More Time on Math in School, Not Less

Lastly, it distresses me to hear people say that modern technology has taken the place of people good at math, and that we can cut back on hours spent in school learning math, to make room for more trendy subjects such as coding and technology. I believe that educators as a group should spread the message that math is important; and if anything, it’s more important than it was in the past, given the spread of technology into nearly every part of our lives.