Most elementary teachers have dealt with parent questions and concerns about math instruction. Some teachers have been the parent raising those concerns with their child’s teacher. Hilary Kreisberg, the Director at the Center for Mathematics Achievement at Lesley University, and the author of, “Partnering with Parents in Elementary Math,” shares findings from interviews with parents and provides actions teachers can take to support parents in feeling helpful, intelligent, confident, and familiar around their child’s math learning.
Find Hilary on Twitter: @Dr_Kreisberg
Visit the Center for Mathematics Achievement website.
Find Hilary’s Book, “Partnering with Parents in Elementary Math” here.
Steve: 00:31 Teaching math with parents as partners. Most elementary teachers have dealt with parent questions and concerns about math instruction. Some teachers have been the parent raising the concern with their child’s teacher. I’m excited to have Hillary Kreisberg join us today. She’s the director at the Center for Mathematics Achievement at Lesley University and the author of, “Partnering With Parents in Elementary Math.” Hilary is an experienced teacher, math coach and teacher educator, as well as a researcher and author. I was impressed when I read about the parent interviews that she’s conducted on this topic and I’m anxious for her to join us and share her insights. Welcome Hillary.
Hilary : 01:19 Thank you for having me.
Steve: 01:21 I’m wondering if you can give us a little bit of your background on what led you into exploring and writing on this topic of parents
as partners for students math success?
Hilary : 01:33 Sure. So it started just as a math teacher and having to teach and talk to parents about the shifts in math instruction. I was a fifth grade teacher during the transition to the common core’s math frameworks back in 2010. And there was a big shift that came out and everyone had to acknowledge the shift at the same time, parents, teachers, students, school systems. And throughout my time teaching, throughout my time as a math coach and even just as a human being out in public, I was noticing a lot of people complaining about the way we teach math today. And nothing has really changed since 2010, I can tell you that, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen in terms of parents not understanding what we’re trying to do here. And so it started in 2017. I did a bunch of interviews with parents and wanted to hear from their perspective how this change felt. And then that led to developing a book for teachers from the parents’ experience.
Steve: 02:41 So I just have to say that I’m years ahead of you in this field and I was doing my early teaching in the 70’s and parents were asking questions then about what we were doing in math.
Hilary : 02:57 I Know, it is the math awards. It’s like the pendulum just came back again. Yes, you’re exactly right. This happened and Tom Leer wrote about it in a song.
Hilary : 03:05 The is not first time this has happened. That is correct.
Hilary : 03:11 But we’re gonna get right this time.
Steve: 03:13 Okay. I read that that you’ve labeled four core ones that parents have and I thought it might be a good idea to share those with teachers.
Hilary : 03:26 Yeah. Well, like I said, in 2017, my co-author and I interviewed hundreds of parents of elementary age children from across the states to better understand how they felt about the way we teach math today. And so ultimately, our data showed that parents were feeling intimidated and frustrated and worried and confused. They were saying things like I’m frustrated because I feel like I can’t help my kids with their homework. I feel unintelligent. I can’t even do third grade math homework. That was a common quote we heard. They were worried that their children were gonna fail because of them because they can’t do the math the way that we’re doing it. They were confused because they were hearing words that they’d never heard of and tools and strategies that were so unfamiliar to them. And then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools shut down, these issues only exacerbated and parents often just undid what we’ve been working so hard to accomplish over these last 10, 12 years.
Hilary : 04:16 Because they weren’t equipped to support their children with today’s teaching of math. And so this led my co-author and I to identify what families feel that they need from us educators, which we’ve dawned the four core wants. And so those are what parents want. They wanna feel helpful, they wanna feel intelligent, confident, and familiar. They wanna be able to support us as educators. They just don’t know how and so it’s our job as educators to provide them the how.
Steve: 04:50 So let’s move into that piece. I’m wondering if you can provide some specific actions that teachers can take for inviting and supporting parents as partners.
Hilary : 05:05 I think the best place to start is to really assess your own core beliefs. So you are not going to be able to partner with parents if you believe that some families are incapable of the work. So asking yourself first, do you see families as essential to their child’s success? Do you recognize that they have strengths and knowledge and skills and that all families bring those to the table? Or do you see some families or other families as obstacles to their child’s success? All families have the capacity to support their children’s learning and they all want the best of their children and we have to actually believe that. So I think first you gotta look at your mindset and once you’ve reflected on your mindset, if you find that you have some deficit based views, you start to think, hmm, there’s this family that I don’t think is actually interested in helping their kid, or they can’t, because X, Y, Z, I would start there and work on your mindset on what families can and are capable of doing.
Hilary : 06:02 If you’re already acting from an asset-based mindset, and you already believe that your families can, then I suggest that you consider how to act on those four core wants that we talk about. So how can you support parents in feeling helpful in talent, confident and familiar. So that might look like sending a unit preview home before a unit comes so that parents can get information proactively about what their children are about to learn. And you gotta consider how you’re gonna present the content, right? So you wanna make sure that these are written in a way that parents can read them and that they want to read it. I know this is an international podcast, but the most recent national US assessment shows that 52% of United States adults have a basic or below reading proficiency and so perhaps that is similar elsewhere.
Hilary : 06:55 I’m not sure of the statistics elsewhere. But given we have to write to parents at a level that they can read it. And so that means really in the United States, writing to parents of all ages of your students at about a sixth grade reading level. So making sure that parents can read what you’re writing, making sure that it’s short enough and brief enough that they want to read it, and if unit previews start to sound like too much to start with, then maybe it’s as simple as just surveying your students’ families and just trying to understand what they already know about math and the shifts in math instruction and their own mathematical experiences, because maybe those families that you might view as obstacles, maybe they had bad experiences in school growing up and maybe they don’t wanna attend any events at a school.
Hilary : 07:43 So maybe it’s as simple as relocating an event. So I think starting again with your core beliefs, once you’re past that, it’s thinking about how can I proactively communicate to families so that they can get information and feel like they can actually talk with their child about math. And then, if that feels like too much, then it’s stepping back and just serving families and finding out what they know and are able to do. Honestly, in many of the interviews that we conducted, we found that once parents had heard why our math instruction has shifted, like even just two sentences, “here’s why math instruction has shifted,” they were able to feel so much more at ease. Some of them even just said, “that’s all I needed to hear.” So maybe your next step is even just communicating why. Why did math suddenly change for them?
Steve: 08:32 Reassurance, I guess I’m hearing.
Hilary : 08:34 Yeah.
Steve: 08:36 AndI’m thinking from what you’ve said, communicating to the parents that their questions would be welcomed and encouraged would be part of that?
Hilary : 08:50 Absolutely. I mean, you are your child’s best advocate and so we wanna make sure that as parents, we know that we can communicate with the teacher about these things. And I think there’s an assumption that you can but I think openly stating, like, I’m welcoming these questions, I wanna know what you know and don’t know about math and instruction today and how can I help you? Yeah.
Steve: 09:12 Well Hilary, thanks for what you’ve shared with us. I’m wondering if you’d tell teachers who are listening how they can connect with the resources that you have available and find the books that you’ve written on this.
Hilary : 09:27 Sure. I mean the best place is Twitter. I think Twitter’s a fantastic place for professional development as well. You can learn a lot there. And my handle is, @Dr_Kreisberg. They can also find me at Lesley University’s website, the Center for Mathematics Achievement, and the book that I think best aligns with teachers that we’ve written recently is, “Partnering With Parents in Elementary School Math,” and it comes with a lot of online reproducibles that are editable so teachers don’t have to start from scratch, there’s a place in the beginning.
Steve: 10:01 Terrific, terrific. We’ll be sure to put those those links into the lead-in and the podcast so it’ll be for people to find. Thanks for joining us.
Hilary : 10:11 Thanks for having me.
Steve [Outro]: 10:14 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love 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.