Communicating the Message

If you were to try and explain to parents why you think early math education is as important as early literacy, what would you say?

Would you explain to parents that children begin to make sense of the world by observing all of its dimensions, shapes, characteristics, and relationships?  This happens before the acquisition of language which makes it the foundation from which language grows.

Would you communicate to parents that early math learning leads to less math anxiety, stronger interest in math, and stronger math confidence later in life?

Would you share the research with parents that shows math as the foundation for learning technology and the sciences?

Would you tell parents that early math learning leads to stronger outcomes in math proficiency later in life as well as in other academic areas?

Would you show parents how incorporating math into their everyday lives is as easy as reading books or telling stories?

How else would you communicate this very important message?

6 Replies to “Communicating the Message”

  1. This is a powerful list. I would add to it:

    There are huge differences across families in terms of how much math language children hear from their parents. Some parents use very little math language,
    while other parents use a lot more. These differences really matter! A child who hears math language daily, especially between the ages of 14 months and 30 months, will have a much easier time in preschool and kindergarten
    learning basic math concepts.

    Parenting practices in which parents engage children in conversations about number concepts, play with puzzles and shapes, encourage counting, and use number symbols to represent quantity in their interactions in the physical world can all facilitate mathematics learning.

    Research supports the effects of modeling. Children who have parents that talk about and participate in number activities are more likely to be interested and involved in similar activities.

    By the time children reach 8th grade, over 68% are not proficient in mathematics – meaning, they do not meet state standards.

    The US ranked 25 out of 30 among developed countries in math achievement.

  2. Thank you so much for this Elizabeth. This information mirrors the research we see about language and literacy as well. For me the \”takeaway\” message is is exposure. How can we communicate the message that exposing children to number, number concepts, math vocabulary, and daily home math experiences (that occur both organically and intentionally) matters? Parents don\’t have to me \”mathematicians\” or even consider themselves \”good at math\” in order to expose chlildren to the world of math.
    How do you, at the Ounce of Prevention, communicate this to parents?

    1. In a variety of ways and settings. As with children\’s learning, one size does not not fit all when it comes to family engagement! Parent breakfasts, classroom events for parents and kids, grandparents support group, male involvement group, contests in our entry way, family math \”drop-ins\” at pick-up time, conversations in the hallway, make and takes… this message is integrated into existing points of contact and again, like kids, parents need many opportunities to be exposed and to explore what the earliest math for the youngest learners looks like, and to understand that they do not have to interact with their children as a \”Teacher\” but naturally in their every day interactions, noting that math is everywhere if we look for it and even when we don\’t.

      1. Good reminders- One size never fits all when it comes to families! I like your list a lot- can you explain a little bit more about \”family math drop-ins\”. Sounds cool, but I can\’t picture it.

        1. Parents pick their kids up from their classrooms at the end of the day and \”drop in\” to our adjacent Family Center for however long they are able for math games and activities around a single strand of early math. This has been our effort to try reaching parents who typically don\’t come to longer more formal events without their kids, like our monthly, center-wide parent meetings. Some times we get about 15 families over a three-hour period…. other times not so many. Classroom-based parent/child events tend to draw the largest crowd; parents feel invested in their relationships with their teaching team, those parents, those children. Since all of our families are working or in school (IDHS funding) classroom events are best staggered, one in the morning, one in the evening, to accommodate a variety of schedules and shifts. All in all, it is a real challenge so we try a little bit of everything.

          1. I usually teach that it is a good method to throw everything you\’ve got at the wall and hope something sticks. If you don\’t engage them at \”all-parent\” meetings then offering options is the way to go. I also like the intentional math activities – rather than open-ended everything. I think this is a really nice model. Thanks, Elizabeth.

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