Parents and Mathematics Education in a Latino Community: Redefining Parental Participation
Civil, Marta, Bratton, Jill, Quintos, Beatriz, Multicultural Education
Rhonda: The good thing about MAPPS is that it [opens] our awareness in math, you know the workshops, it just opens up the doors that we thought that were closed specially for me....I think that it is important that I learned that, our kids aren't really being taught what they are supposed to be taught and that's one big thing and that parents have a lot of power that we don't know that we have it, that's what MAPPS taught me.
Our work aims to expand the vision of parent1 participation in school mathematics, in particular the role of mothers from diverse ethnocultural and low socioeconomic groups. The experience of some of the mothers has led them to believe, as in the above quote, that their role is limited and that their ability to voice their opinions and concerns is hampered by the traditional school structure.
Through their involvement in MAPPS2 (Math and Parent Partnerships in the Southwest), parents like Rhonda have had experiences that took them through a series of processes that provide us with a different vision for parental participation in mathematics education. This vision is the focus of our article.
The vision consists of four components: Parents as Parents (i.e., parents originally joined MAPPS because they want to help their children with their mathematics education); Parents as Learners (parents become learners for themselves; some even pursue further education); Parents as Teachers (this is a unique feature-parents become facilitators of mathematics workshops for other parents in the community); Parents as Leaders (e.g., parents become advocates for the education of not only their children but for all the children in the district).
This article elaborates on these components based on the parents' own reflections.
Our work with adults in mathematics draws from three bodies of research. The first one is grounded on socio-cultural theory and in particular on the concept of "funds of knowledge" through which households and communities are seen as having knowledge and resources that can be tapped into for educational purposes (González, 1995; Moll, 1992).
The second body of research combines ethnomathematics and adult education grounded on critical pedagogy (Benn, 1997; Flecha, 2000; Knijnik, 1993). Finally, we draw on research on parental involvement, in particular that which critically examines issues of power and perceptions of parents (especially language and ethnic "minority" and working-class parents) (Delgado Gaitan, 2001; Henry, 1996; Lareau, 2000).
Our approach to parents and mathematics education is grounded on the concept of parents as intellectual resources (Civil & Andrade, 2003), which means that we are particularly interested in parents' views and understandings of mathematics and that we seek to learn from them and to build our mathematics instruction on these adults' knowledge and experiences. This is consistent with approaches to parent participation that are largely based on facilitating parents in their empowerment process so that they can effect change, work to challenge the rhetoric of parent involvement, and work to build community action (Delgado Gaitan, 2001).
We focus on the strengths and assets of the families and communities with which we work in order to change the focus from needs of the communities to the possibilities present within the communities (Guajardo & Guajardo, 2002).
The focus of MAPPS is on engaging parents in mathematics through three different types of activities: (1) Mathematics Awareness Workshops (MAWS), which are open to all the parents (and their children) in the school district and range over key topics in K-12 mathematics (e.g., multiplication, misconceptions about the equal sign, exploring patterns, proportional reasoning). These workshops are self-contained and last about two hours.
(2) Leadership development sessions in which parents, teachers, and administrators learn how to facilitate workshops (MAWS) for the larger parent community and participate in team building activities. …