How we teach and assess math today may feel very different for the caregivers in our students’ lives. Open and clear communication about the content and how it is being taught helps alleviate discomfort and gives caregivers the ability to help at home. Here are 10 ways we can help them do that:
- Class newsletter—In the weekly newsletter, highlight a few strategies being taught that week.
- Send home videos of a student using the math strategy. If you share these videos with the entire class, you will want to make sure proper permissions are in place. The other option is to send the video only to the family of the child recorded.
- If you have a class website, include a variety of websites and YouTube videos modeling the use of new strategies.
- Host a “how to teach math to my child” night for the parents of your students. I usually focus mostly on the strategies used during our number operations unit and explain how all students see math differently. This exposes them to different strategies so they can find the one that works best for them. We also discuss mathematical mind-sets and focus on growth mindset. I share with parents that the words we use when talking about math affect their child’s perceptions, so we want to remain positive, and that it is okay for students to make mistakes and learn from them. I also encourage parents to use the words not yet when their children say they do not know how to do something.
- Send home completed work with feedback on it, so the parents can see what the expectations are throughout the year and what the current focus is.
- Share a digital portfolio with parents of their child’s work.
- Host a school-wide math night. Choose a theme, and focus on different strands from your math curriculum. For example, one year we had a Lego theme, and we used Legos to estimate, construct, add, and multiply to make patterns and so on.
- Send home math games that students can play with their families. These games can be a review of previously taught concepts or may even help prepare for an upcoming skill.
- Math homework for parents—The students and I create a math homework sheet of one to three problems for their parents, highlighting a particular strategy that we learned, and ask the parents to complete the homework themselves. Then, children correct their parents’ homework and put a sticker on it. (The students really love doing this.)
- Social media is a powerful tool. Use it to model and explain, and to provide pictures and examples of learning that takes place daily.
It is important to be proactive and give parents an opportunity to learn about the concepts you teach through a variety of methods. In my experience, parents are more relaxed about the “new math” when they’re informed.