Our first in a series of Guest Blogs from Steve Humble (aka Dr Maths)
Over the last 3 years I have been researching the effect of parents on their children’s homework and I feel is an important part of the extended classroom. I have been looking at the transfer effect of maths conversation in the home on maths attainment in the classroom. The work seems to suggest that small changes in the way mathematics is delivered can have major effects on learning and achievement.
At different times parents guide, encourage and teach. Children learn from the example set by their parents. The support parents give for their children’s cognitive development is important, as is instilling of values, aspirations and support for the development of wider interpersonal and social skills. Research has shown the importance of parental warmth, stability, consistency and boundary setting in helping children develop skills. Although there is strong evidence of the importance of parental engagement, schools struggle to engage some parents. It has also been shown that parental involvement has a significant effect on pupil achievement throughout the years of schooling from childhood to adolescence.
The majority of parents want to do their best for their children, but are not always sure how to do this in a mathematical setting. In a study, 72% of parents said that they wanted more involvement. Yet a critical issue for parents is how to do this if they maybe lack knowledge of the national school curriculum or have a poor understanding of key foundations in mathematics. What does it mean to support their child’s maths learning in the home? What should they do? Sit and do timetables practice? Repetition and number work is often seen to be mathematics, but maths is not only about number just as language is not only about spelling. Part of the work of schools has to be to support and educate parents to allow them to make maths connections in the world. Homework offers schools this chance but in many cases the opportunity is lost or wasted on time-consuming activities which give no real benefit in the classroom.
The work of Desforges and Abouchaar, found that parent-child conversations in the home were valuable, in terms of enhancing children’s school achievement. They suggest and my research supports the idea that schools should encourage parents to talk to their children about school activities at home. Yet the crucial point is how this conversation is then used by the classroom teacher as a “transfer trigger” to embed the learning of the student in the classroom.
For the last eight years I’ve also written a fortnightly newspaper column called Dr Maths for The Evening Chronicle, the main local newspaper in the North East, which has a circulation of around 55,000. The column hopes to promote greater interest in Mathematics to a wider audience and support parents conversation of maths in the home.
Past newspaper columns have contained topics as varied as The Perfect Body, Global Warming, Mobile Phones, Deal or No Deal, Lucky Numbers, What is Average?, Finding Mr Right, Golf & Horse Racing, Coin & Card Magic, Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Premium Bonds and Coco Chanel to name but a few.
The ideas from those newspaper columns inspired me to create, a CD Rom resource for schools called “Maths for everyday!”.
My hope is that the resource will inspire students to see that maths is all around them everyday…Steve
Steve Humble (aka Dr Maths) has worked as a maths subject leader in various educational establishments for over 25 years, with five years as a Senior Regional Coordinator for the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM). He now teaches maths on the Primary PGCE Course at Newcastle University and works as a Freelance Mathematics Consultant supporting schools in raising their student achievement through creating a positive attitude to maths.