Math...at home!

posted Mar 19, 2018, 12:46 PM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Mar 19, 2018, 12:48 PM ]

Here at MWES you will find students and teachers engaged in mathematical learning experiences which focus on developing deep understandings of mathematical concepts, proficiency with key skills, and the ability to solve complex and novel problems. 

Teachers blend direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration, tapping into the intelligence and strengths of all students by presenting material that is as linguistically, visually, and kinesthetically rich as it is mathematically powerful. 

Parents often ask, “How can we help at home?” and last fall we hosted a Family Math Night which allowed parents to take part in mathematical activities to become more familiar with what is going on in the classroom and support instruction at home. 

An article shared a few years ago, Where The Wild Fractions Are: The Power Of A Bedtime (Math) Story, by Eric Westervelt of NPR still rings true. Read on to for tips on how parents might help their child develop a love of math using a no frills math app and every day math talk. (This is an abridged version of what Westervelt shared.)

Parents who are uneasy about their own math skills often worry about how best to teach the subject to their kids. A study published in the journal, Science, suggests that at least one app works pretty well for elementary school children and math-anxious parents. A team from the University of Chicago used a demographically diverse group of first-graders and their parents — nearly 600 in all — across a wide swath of Chicago. One group got to use an app called Bedtime Math, built by a nonprofit with the same name. The no-frills app uses stories and sound effects to present kids with math problems that they can solve with their parents. The control group was given a reading app with similar stories but no math problems to solve. The results at the end of the school year?

University of Chicago psychology professor Sian L. Beilock, one of the paper’s lead authors, shared the results. Our study suggests that doing Bedtime Math with your kids can help advance their math achievement over the school year, and this might be especially important for parents who are a little bit nervous about their own math ability.

We compared kids who used the Bedtime Math app that involved reading stories and doing math problems with their parents to kids who did a very similar app that didn’t have the math content. We showed that when kids frequently used the app with their parents, those who used the math app were three months ahead in terms of math achievement relative to kids who just did the reading app.

Many adults in the U.S. and around the world profess to be uncomfortable or anxious about math. Oftentimes dealing with your kid around math can be a nerve-wracking experience — whether it’s homework or just talking about it. We found that doing this Bedtime Math app with kids was especially beneficial for those kids whose parents tended to be the most nervous about math. In essence, these kids grew significantly throughout the course of the year and looked like kids whose parents weren’t anxious about math by school year’s end.

It was somewhat surprising to us that such using the app as little as once a week would have such important benefits. One of the ideas is that we think that when parents get comfortable with talking with their kids about math — it doesn’t have to be complex math problems; it could be anything from shapes to even counting — they likely engage in math talk even when they’re not using the app. And we know that parents who talk more with their kids about math — whether you’re counting out the number of cookies or counting the minutes to bedtime — those kids tend to achieve at higher rates in math.

We’ve shown that, when parents interact with their kids and talk with them about math, that really impacts what kids learn. We were interested in this because it really is a no-frills app, an easy way for parents to interact with their kids, to talk with their kids about math. It’s not an app that they use by themselves. And we thought that that potentially had promise in terms of what math knowledge kids gained. To realize that math is part of everything we do, and math is not something scary or that one should be anxious about. And it’s really healthy to try to incorporate that into daily life. And often, as you said, parents think about reading bedtime stories, but there is a place for thinking also about bedtime math.

You don’t hear people walking around bragging that they’re not good at reading. But very intelligent people brag about not being good at math. And it turns out that that anxiety and social acceptability has implications for our nation’s success in math and science fields. And it’s really important that we as parents and teachers and adults try to convey to our kids that math is something that’s (a) enjoyable and (b) learned. You’re not born a math person or not; it’s something that’s acquired. And every time we talk about it and we integrate it into our daily lives, children may see the importance of it and that math is not something to be fearful of.”

To learn more about the free, “no-frills” Bedtime Math app and how you might use it at home, visit www.bedtimemath.org. Once installed, launch the app to find daily math riddles for kids aged 3-9, with different levels of math. No logins. No drilling. No scores…just an opportunity for kids to see the math in their favorite topics! You find you are soon adding bedtime math to your bedtime story routine!

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