This year, teachers at my school have embraced a new way of teaching math – from focusing on procedures to promoting a more conceptual, deeper understanding. Students are now showing their mathematical understanding in multiple ways, using manipulatives, various strategies, and engaging in rich discussions.
Many parents, however, are not familiar with this new way of teaching and learning math. Their natural instinct is to support their child in the same way that they learned math – with traditional algorithms. Instead of just telling parents about the new ways of doing math, we decided to let parents experience it for themselves.
At a recent Parent Teacher Coffee Morning, parents were invited to participate in a Number Talk and to try working through rich mathematical tasks, using manipulatives, showing their thinking with models, and sharing their strategies with each other. It was a powerful and effective way for them to see how math is being taught and how they can support their child at home.
Here are some key points to include in a parent workshop:
Mathematical practices lead to a deeper understanding of Mathematical Content Standards. Parents need to know that the math practices can be integrated into the content, and this leads to a deeper understanding of the mathematical skills and concepts. This will allow students to move beyond facts and procedures – so they can apply math to solve real-world, authentic problems. Show parents that math is all around us, and making connections to their daily life is much more effective than worksheets. Bedtime Math is a great resource for this. Instead of a bedtime story, parents can try doing some math before bedtime!
Students need to progress from Concrete, to Pictorial, to Abstract. When learning a new concept, it’s essential that students begin by building it with manipulatives. Then, they can progress to drawing models and pictorial representations. Finally, when they are secure in the concept, they can move on to the abstract. This might be a big shift from how parents learned math.
Common Core has brought key shifts. Coherence. Parents need an understanding of what is developmentally appropriate at each age level, and how we build upon it coherently, with both vertical and horizontal alignment. Focus. Parents should also know that we now have greater focus on fewer topics, allowing for deeper understanding. Rigor. Explain that rigor is not necessarily harder; it’s a balance of conceptual understanding, procedural skills, and fluency. But, emphasize that fluency doesn’t mean faster! Speed should never be a factor in mathematical understanding.
It’s not about the answer! Parents should understand the importance of interpreting a problem, analyzing what needs to be done, and evaluating the solution to ensure it makes sense. Just getting an answer isn’t enough. Students need to be able to explain and justify their thinking, as well as critique the reasoning of others.
It’s much more effective and engaging for parents to experience it for themselves! And it’s way more fun, too!