Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Home-School Partnership within Mathematics Intervention

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Home-School Partnership within Mathematics Intervention

Article excerpt


EDUCATORS UNDERSTAND that strong home-school partnership benefits all key stakeholders in the education of the child. This article first discusses challenges to partnership with parents in general, and then highlights challenges specific to the mathematics curriculum area. Second, mathematics intervention is reviewed. Third, the current study is described and parents' perceptions of their knowledge and ability to support the school's reading and mathematics programs are reported. Fourth, parental involvement in the action-research phase of the study, a mathematics intervention program, is described. Finally, results of the intervention are presented and the means whereby parental involvement was gained is made explicit.

Home-school partnership

It is universally accepted that home-school partnership benefits the child, parents and teachers as demonstrated by the Program for International Student Assessment (OECD, 2004). Epstein (1995) describes 'overlapping spheres of influence' (p. 702) where teachers believe they require and therefore seek the support and input of parents if they are to meet the needs of the child, and parents feel they need to know what is happening at school if they are to assist in their child's education. The latter partnership, which is the sort of partnership many parents will have enjoyed with their children's early childhood centre, is more likely to provide family-like schools where children experience caring learning communities. All successful parent-teacher relationships are marked by a lack of conflict (Keyes, 2002).

However, it is not always easy to promote or maintain this sort of partnership. The match between teachers' and parents' values and cultures affects the relationship (Epstein, 1995). It is common today for teachers to come from 'a socioeconomic class, race or ethnic group that is different from that of the children they teach' (Keyes, 2002, pp. 179-180). Values may differ. In their Australian study on children's successful transition to school, Docket and Perry (2004) note that parental expectations differ from those of teachers, with parents ranking items on knowledge highest as against teachers who ranked items reflecting disposition and adjustment highest.

Additionally, some parents see teachers as authoritative figures, a legacy from their own schooling, and these parents are unlikely to voice their opinions and concerns. Furthermore, differing socioeconomic backgrounds may result in differing child-rearing practices. Such issues challenge the development of effective home-school partnerships (Coleman, 1997).

Home-school partnership in the learning of mathematics

Partnership with parents leading to general improvement in student achievement is specific to mathematics as well (Ford, Follmer & Litz, 1998). Sheldon and Epstein (2005) report research across 18 schools in seven states in the US which found 'positive relationships between parent involvement and diverse student outcomes including, but not limited to, mathematics' (p. 196). These findings support those from Shaver and Wall's (1998) study involving parents of 355 learning-disabled students in North Central West Virginia, USA. These authors found that while students from low income families made 'fewer gains than students from higher income families ... such gains were positively influenced by level of parent involvement' (p. 95), and their gains were significantly greater than those of children whose parents were not involved at all.

However, it can be difficult to foster home-school relationships in children's learning of mathematics because 'parents do not find it easy to teach their children school mathematics at home' (de Abreu & Cline, 2005, p. 720) and some parents feel incompetent to help their children (Bryan, Burnstein & Bryan, 2001). Problems are exacerbated because changes in curriculum mean children are not being taught mathematics the same way their parents were. …

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