# Supporting parents with maths

Are mums and dads avoiding your after school numeracy sessions? Perhaps they’re terrified of giving the wrong answers, suggests Sue Dixon...

#### Q:

I’m going to start running some after school ‘fun’ sessions for parents, which will give them information about how we teach maths and literacy, but also some practical ideas of things to do at home. Any ideas welcomed. Our parents are fairly supportive but I’m not sure if they will turn up to a workshop as we haven’t done this before.

#### A

Right now you need to think about how confident your parents are with literacy and numeracy. If you put on something that is obviously linked to the school curriculum, will that frighten them away? You may not realise it but to many parents you, the ‘knowledgeable teacher’, can be quite scary and they’ll be frightened of getting the wrong answer in front of you and other parents. So you are right to keep the fun factor as high as you can. Quick games and challenges work really well as parents can easily get involved in a game and don’t feel they have to have all the answers. They are also a good way to grasp the underlying concepts you’re trying to promote. Here’s an example of a quick KS2 activity.

Syllabic racing

• Draw a diagram of a racecourse – perhaps F1 style – and try to get a couple of toy cars to play this game with.
• Make a set of cards and write a different word on each, making sure to write words with varying numbers of syllables. Also make about five cards that have the words ‘Pit Stop’ written on them. The pack of cards is shuffled and placed face down.
• Take turns at picking a card. You can then move your car the same number of places as syllables in the word on the card, e.g. if you pick a card with ‘pretty’ on it, you read the word, say how many syllables it has (in this case two) and, if you are correct, you can move two places.
• If you pick up a ‘Pit Stop’ card you have to miss turn.

Plan a session where parents and children attend together and, after a short introduction, let everyone just ‘dive in’ and explore the activities. You can move around and support where necessary in a friendly and informal way. Only intervene if you know you’re welcome – I find parents will ask if they want clarification on anything. This way you will create a lovely ‘buzz’ of activity in the room which is exactly what you want; the message that learning is and should be fun can then go home with them. Then start to plan the next enjoyable stages. As my granny used to say ‘Slowly, slowly catch your monkey’.

#### Q:

Our receptionist is also a parent in the school and she’s been overheard talking to a group of other parents about what some teachers are like. For example, ‘That teacher is really strict’ or ‘that one isn’t quite so experienced’. She was even heard giving advice to one particular parent about which teacher is more likely to suit her child and generally passing on her opinions and so called knowledge about the school. Every year we have parents trying to dictate which class teacher their child has and this isn’t going to help. Is this professionally unacceptable behaviour or am I just fussing over nothing?

#### A

Oh my! This is very unprofessional behaviour for anyone who works in a school and someone from SMT needs to deal with this. Imagine if it was the other way around and teachers had a say in which children were in their class? For example: ‘Rank these children according to their parents’ propensity to be a pain in the neck’. Or, given a list of names, ‘Tick the answer for each child’:

• Definitely – it’ll be a pleasure
• Yes - no problem
• OK – I suppose so
• Do I really have to?