June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
12.374.1 - 12.374.11
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
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