Magazine article Momentum

Teachers Benefit from Learning How Parents Assist Children with Mathematics

Magazine article Momentum

Teachers Benefit from Learning How Parents Assist Children with Mathematics

Article excerpt

St. John's University program helps teachers observe the parent-child relationship

Parental engagement is a recognized factor in positively influencing children's academic achievement (Epstein & VanVoorhis, 2010), and teachers play a critical role in supporting parents to assist their children (Civil & Bernier, 2006). To do so, researchers urge teachers to develop understandings about how and why parents assist their children in mathematics the way they do in order to inform the approaches they use to support parents with mathematics (Calabrese Barton, Drake, Perez, St. Louis, and George, 2004).

In response to such a call, in-service teachers from Catholic schools in the metropolitan area of New York worked toward becoming aware of and responsive to parents' needs with mathematics. In this article, I describe a parental engagement initiative titled In Collaboration that provided opportunities for in-service teachers, alongside preservice teachers, to come to know and support parents with mathematics.

Learning outcomes are described along with next steps that an in-service teacher and principal at one school are planning as a result of their participation in the initiative. References to parents include all adults who play an active role in a child's home life (Ratcliff & Hunt, 2009), and this work is intended to contribute to the body of knowledge about the role teacher inquiry plays in cultivating knowledge of and support for parents with mathematics..


As part of their required professional development hours, three in-service teachers (each with more than 10 years of experience) interacted with 15 fifth-grade families from six Catholic schools (two at which the participating in-service teachers taught) in Staten Island, New York. The in-service teachers joined 10 pre-service teachers, who facilitated mathematics sessions with the families as part of their required fieldwork for a credit-bearing mathematics methods course. The preservice teachers were part of a careerchange master's degree program at St. John's University in Staten Island, New York, and were seeking initial teaching certification.

Learning Environment

During a 14-week semester, the pre-service teachers engaged families in mathematics tasks during four twohour sessions involving learning objectives from the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSI, 2010). While the pre-service teachers facilitated the sessions, the in-service teachers observed and assisted the pre-service teachers as needed.

Modes of Inquiry

Quantitative and qualitative measures used throughout the initiative served to gather data about parentchild collaboration in mathematics.

In mathematics education, the term parent-child collaboration refers to the manner in which a parent and child work together on mathematical tasks such as daily homework and projects.

The pre-service teachers administered a 27-item Likert scale parent survey to determine baseline parental perspectives on ways parents should assist their child's learning of mathematics and ways teachers should support parents to assist their child. The pre-service teachers conducted interviews at the beginning and during the initiative to further investigate how and why parents primarily assist their child the way they do, to identify the challenges parents face while assisting their child and the specific forms of support parents desire from teachers.

Throughout the initiative, the preservice teachers sought feedback from the families about the assigned home tasks by asking them what went well and what was challenging. During each of the four family sessions, the preservice and in-service teachers took field notes based on their observations of parent-child interactions while working on mathematics tasks. Specifically, they noted if parents were explaining or exploring ideas with their child and posing short answers, prompting or probing. …

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