I began the podcasts for parents at the start of the quarantine when I wanted to support parents as they worked with their children learning at home. I described the role for parents as a learning coach rather than teacher. Our guest for this podcast, Dr. Hilary Kreisberg has written two books around parents being partners with schools in generating students’ success in math. She offers action parents as coaches and advocates can take.
Find Hilary on Twitter: @Dr_Kreisberg
Visit the Center for Mathematics Achievement website.
Find Hilary’s Book, “Partnering with Parents in Elementary Math” here.
Find Hilary’s book, “Adding Parents to the Equations: Understanding Your Child’s Elementary Math” here.
Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, at times, even somewhat conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:34 Coaching math learning. I began recording podcast for parents at the start of the quarantine when I wanted to support parents as they worked with their children learning at home. I described the role for parents as one of being a learning coach, rather than thinking of themselves as their child’s teacher. Our guest for this podcast has written two books around parents being partners with schools in generating student success in math. Hilary Kreisberg is the director at the Center for Mathematics Achievement at Leslie University. Her research for her books included interviewing hundreds of parents about working with their youngsters in math. I’m excited that she agreed to join us on the podcast today. So welcome Hilary.
Hilary: 01:25 Thank you so much for having me and I love that you described the role of parents as a learning coach. That’s actually the exact same stance that my coauthor and I take in our latest book, “Partnering With Families.” We really view families as coaches for their children. They have to model positivity and learning, enthusiasm for tackling new ideas and they’re their child’s best motivator.
Steve: 01:48 I loved hearing that. As the quarantine came and I was hearing so many people describe that now the parent had to be the teacher, I knew that’s not what we were saying and I really wanted to get a message out there. Most parents recognize I can’t teach my child their musical instrument, most of us can’t teach our child the sport that they wanna take part in, but we can all step into that coaching role of encouraging the practice and showing the excitement and the enthusiasm. I’m wondering if we could begin with some of the most common things you heard in your interviews with parents?
Hilary: 02:30 Sure. Well, in 2017, so pre-pandemic, my co-author and I interviewed hundreds of families across the United States to find out how they feel about the way we teach math today and we found that there were four words that they used the most frequently in their interviews. And those four words were intimidated, frustrated, worried, and confused. They felt like they couldn’t help with math because they don’t understand what we’re doing. They’re frustrated and they feel unintelligent that they can’t – we kept hearing things like, “I can’t help my child with their third grade math homework.” Like, “I went to school and I still can’t do this,” things like that. And they worried that their children will fail because of them. And they were generally just confused because they didn’t learn math this way and now they have to suddenly learn a whole new set of vocabulary, a whole new set of strategies and sometimes the strategies seem more challenging than what they had learned. So I’m actually wondering if any of your podcast listeners right now feel that way right now.
Steve: 03:30 Well, I actually, in thinking of some questions I wanted to ask you, I was gonna ask you for advice for the parent who’s thinking to themselves, “I didn’t like math and I didn’t do well,” and they know that it’s better for them not to say that out loud to their youngster, but they’re not sure what to do about it.
Hilary: 03:52 That’s interesting that you say that because so many people don’t know that that’s not okay. So I wanna start with them knowing that that’s not okay to say I wasn’t good at math or I didn’t like school because your child observes and learns the most from you. And so if you start saying these things, “I was bad at math. Oh, ask your father,” things like that, your child may start to believe that these things are genetic and that they too will have those same feelings or can’t do math or something like that. So my first piece of advice is watch your language around your children. Being good at math is not genetic. It’s not something that you’re born with. So I think helping your child see that math is everywhere and that everyone can be a mathematical thinker, I think that switch in language is really important too.
Hilary: 04:37 I’m not saying we can all do math. I’m saying that we can all be mathematical thinkers. And then also helping your child see that we use math every day. So looking for places in your life daily that you use math so that kids can learn to see that math is worthwhile in studying. So going back to your original question, sorry, I veered there, but there’s so many people that don’t know, don’t say those things actually. But for those who do know, like let’s censor what we say, I think just finding other ways to communicate with your youngster is really important. So reinforcing your child’s work by praising their efforts and not complimenting their ability to be correct. I think that’s like the number one thing that parents around me, I feel like could do better with. I hear a lot of times saying, “oh, that’s great.
Hilary: 05:25 Wow. You’re so smart.” Well now the child doesn’t know – I’m naturally smart. I don’t have to work hard actually. I don’t know what I need to do better because I’m just born gifted, but that’s not true because their efforts and their behaviors are what got them there. So praise their efforts and behaviors, not their intelligence and let them know exactly what they did that you want them to do again the next time. Like great job taking your time through that problem that allowed you to get the correct answer. Something like that. Another piece of advice is just thinking about how you currently support your child. So when your child has homework or a task at home, I think just focusing back on what you and I were talking about, Steve, about just being a coach, that’s also meaning like, don’t do the work for them, right?
Hilary: 06:12 A lot of times you get tempted to just take the pencil and just show them how we learned it. You’re helping your child more by taking a backseat and just assisting, asking thoughtful questions. And if they can’t get to an answer, that’s okay. Let them put a note to the teacher saying, this is where I got stuck and I didn’t know how to continue. Teachers prefer that over homework that comes in all correct and now I don’t know where to help my student. And I think also just helping your child develop an attitude that getting an answer is not learning, but the process towards getting that answer is the learning.
Steve: 06:47 Well, your response there kind of walks into the next question that that I had thought of and that is, I know that in your work, you do a lot with how the schools need to communicate with parents. But I’m wondering, and I think you touched on this a little bit, but what should we, as parents be thinking about ways that we should be communicating back with the school?
Hilary: 07:17 I love that because communication is a two way street and it shouldn’t just be teachers communicating with families. You are your child’s best advocate. So you need to reach out and take the initiative to talk to your child’s teacher and let them know, hey, I wanna play an active role in my child’s math learning. So that might be you reaching out, just letting them know that. It might be you reaching out and let’s say your teacher doesn’t send you any kind of overview of what the unit that’s coming up is. Ask for that, say, hey, I wanna be an active parent in this process. Can you give me information about what they’re about to learn and the language you want me to use at home so that I can support my child? Ask them to give you an example of questions that you should be asking your child when they’re struggling or doing homework and learning.
Steve: 08:04 So I’m gonna skate on some thin ice here, but it’s coming to my mind. I’m thinking that if my child is constantly complaining about disliking math to me at home, that should be a piece of information I ought to be able to share with their teacher.
Hilary: 08:25 Absolutely.
Steve: 08:25 But I know I need to share it in a in a non-accusatory term and I don’t wanna hold the teacher accountable for it, but it seems there ought to be a way that I could talk to the teacher about the fact that that’s an outcome I would like my child to learn this. This is an area where I’d like to see a change for my child and I’m wondering how we could work on it. Am I on safe footing here at all?
Hilary: 08:56 Yeah. Again, you are your child’s best advocate and your job is to communicate with teachers and let them know what you want and need from the school system. So if your child is frustrated and not enjoying math, I think communicating with the teacher exactly that. I don’t think you’re accusing a teacher at all. I think you’re just saying, you know what? My child used to really love math and suddenly doesn’t, I’d like to explore ways that we can go through this together. What support can I give at home and what can we do differently maybe during the day to help bring back his excitement or their excitement?
Steve: 09:28 So before we close out, I’m wondering if you’ve got one last thought of an important piece you’d like to share with parents that that I missed with my questions?
Hilary: 09:40 Well, just because we’re talking about like post pandemic time right now, I think the buzzword that I’m hearing a lot from parents is learning loss. And I just wanna address that real fast and remind everyone that there has been no learning that has been lost. We’re all on the same page right now. The whole world just went through this really big event and so we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be during this pandemic. So kids did a lot of learning. I think kids learned a lot more of different skills than we normally would’ve learned during any given year. And I think just taking that back seat, thinking about the words and the frustrations and anxieties that we have about learning loss and turning it into a positive thing and remembering that your child learned a lot.
Steve: 10:28 And will continue to learn a lot. It’s not what we lost, it’s where we’re going.
Hilary: 10:38 Yeah, exactly. And we’re lifelong learners. So it was unfinished Learning time.
Hilary: 10:43 To be honest with you, I’m still learning Steve. I don’t know about you.
Steve: 10:47 You got it. I’m the guy who’s putting off retirement because I’ve got too much to learn.
Steve: 10:55 Well, Hilary, thank you so much. I’m wondering if you’d talk to parents a little bit about how they can follow up, maybe find out more about your books and some of the resources that are available.
Hilary: 11:08 Well, if any of you are on Twitter, I’m on Twitter. So you can check that out there. You can learn more about my work at Leslie University’s Center for Mathematics Achievements website. And to be honest with you, I would just suggest grabbing a copy of my book for parents, which is adding parents to the equation, understanding your child’s elementary school math. You can either purchase it or you can borrow it from a local library. And if they don’t have it at a local library request, it they’ll get it for you. And we also have a free Facebook community called “adding parents to the equation.” It has over 1400 members right now and it’s a bunch of parents who ask questions, share resources, say, “hey, my kid came home with this homework. I don’t know what to do. Can someone help me?” So definitely check out those resources. And if you’re an educator listening to this, grab a copy of that book, put it in your school library so parents can borrow it.
Steve: 11:56 Terrific. Thanks a lot. You have a good day.
Hilary: 12:00 You too.
Steve: 12:02 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.