Asee peer logo

Community And Family Math Nights As A Vehicle For Mathematics Success

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Enhancing K-12 Mathematics Education with Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.374.1 - 12.374.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Laura Bottomley North Carolina State University

visit author page

LAURA J. BOTTOMLEY is the Director of the Women in Engineering and Outreach Programs at North Carolina State University and a partner of Science Surround, a science education business for children. She is the immediate past chair of the K-12 Division of ASEE. Dr. Bottomley received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University in 1992, and her MSEE and BSEE from Virginia Tech in 1984 and 1985, respectively. She has worked at AT&T Bell Labs and Duke University.

visit author page


Elizabeth Parry North Carolina State University

visit author page

ELIZABETH A. PARRY is currently the Project Director of RAMP-UP, a K12 math outreach program funded by the GE and the National Science Foundations. She obtained her BS degree in engineering management with a minor in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1983. After over 10 years with IBM, she resigned to concentrate on raising her children, partnering in a science education business (Science Surround) and consulting for NC State University’s College of Engineering.

visit author page


Karen Hollebrands North Carolina State University

visit author page

KAREN HOLLEBRANDS is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at North Carolina State University. She completed her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to attending Penn State, Dr. Hollebrands taught high school mathematics in New York and North Carolina. She is currently serving as the editor of the Technology Tips column in the Mathematics Teacher.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Community and Family Math Nights as a Vehicle for Mathematics Success


Mathematics is an important basis for many aspects of the engineering curriculum, and, whether we like it or not, can also be a discouraging factor for students who would make excellent engineers. Many students whose parents did not themselves experience math success in school will be similarly burdened by a lack of support and understanding at home. In addition, mathematics curricula have changed and continue to change from those of the years that baby- boomers were in elementary and middle school. Many parents are not well equipped to support their children in math classes, and mathematics attitudes and impressions are formed early, with the student (especially those from underrepresented groups) following the parents’ lead.

This paper will describe the creation, implementation and assessment of successful community and family math nights, which to date have served over 3000 people. These events bring parents, students and teachers together with university engineering students and teachers to experience inquiry-oriented math lessons that reinforce both basic and critical thinking skills. The activities are fun for the kids and instructive for the parents and are meant to be done together with simple supplies. Parent workshops as well as detailed information on how to help their children solve problems and apply math are provided. Family Math Nights are designed and implemented to alleviate math anxiety, in part by having university students and professors working with the families as they explore the mathematics curriculum in grades K-8. At many community math nights, a large percentage of the parents in attendance had never before attended a school event.


Mathematics is a well known and accepted ‘gatekeeper’ subject for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals. George Gagnon notes on his New Horizons for Learning web site that “less that a third of students in urban schools are learning enough math to complete STEM majors in college, although only a third of these successful students actually enroll in these majors.”1 The remaining two thirds of these students either self select themselves out of more advanced courses in math and science or are lost to STEM careers or school. Identification of mathematics as a subject primarily for the gifted goes back to Plato, who said “those who have a natural talent for calculation are generally quick-witted at every other kind of knowledge.”2 Unfortunately many factors other than math aptitude and general intelligence play a significant role in a student’s continued success in math as well as their propensity to enroll in university preparation math courses in high school. Different learning styles, ability grouping and tracking and support at home are but a few of the major obstacles to math success in K-12 education, particularly in grades 6-12. The latter is compounded by the fact that today’s parents were taught math in a completely different way than their children are being taught, and that

Bottomley, L., & Parry, E., & Hollebrands, K. (2007, June), Community And Family Math Nights As A Vehicle For Mathematics Success Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2393

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015