1. Debunk parents’ maths myths
To a parent, maths looks different today compared with the maths undertaken by previous generations. Aspects of a maths mastery approach such as the use of Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract representations (CPA approach) and bar modelling have a far more significant presence in classrooms now than generations before.
Sometimes this can be a double-edged sword. When taught well, these approaches can greatly support children’s learning, however for parents, family and friends at home, it may appear to be maths well beyond their reach.
You need to send a clear message home to support parents’ understanding and allow them to see the many benefits a mastery approach can bring.
This starts by debunking some maths myths.
Debunking the idea maths ability is down to genetics
Our ability to understand the brain and genetics is far better now than it used to be. Research strongly suggests we are not born mathematicians or born with a set capability for maths. Just because a parent may find maths difficult it is in no way indicative of what their child’s experience will be.
It’s important to take a starting place of believing that every child is capable of learning maths. As long as the conditions for learning are right, any child has the ability to learn. They may learn at a different rate to others but their capacity to learn is there.
This is the main tenet of the maths mastery approach.
Debunking the idea that maths today is completely different
We need to remember that maths has been studied and documented for thousands of years. A lot of the maths ideas we used today have been used for that length of time too.
Where things may have changed are the representations we use when problem solving. Heuristics and methods that help to solve a problem quickly, have far more mainstream use in mathematics today.
Take this problem for example.
Ravi and Sam have saved £192 between them. The ratio of Ravi’s savings to Sam’s savings is 3:5. How much money would Sam need to give to Ravi so they both have the same amount?
Of course, this could be worked out entirely in the abstract. However, we can also use bar modelling to show the same problem before we get to abstraction.
At the very least, this representation makes it easier to see that Sam needs to give Ravi one part or one unit. If we know this we can start to break down each step in the problem.
Making parents aware of why we represent maths problems with these methods is a great way of involving them in their child’s learning — helping them engage fully with their children’s primary maths education.