Family Math in Research and Practice: Where Do We Go from Here?

  • Efforts to encourage young children’s learning about math at home have been gaining momentum. These efforts are part of an emerging field called family math.
  • Parent and caregiver attitudes and beliefs about math are important to consider when developing family math programs.
  • Research must recognize social and cultural differences in how families engage in math.

On Paper and Practice, Growing the Field of Family Math

What Challenges Need More Study?

Growing Family Math Through Practice, Policy, and Research

  • Make it easier for peers to learn from one another. Schools and other local organizations can recruit family members to be “parent ambassadors” where caregivers can connect with each other and share math activities their own families enjoy.
  • Build on high expectations. All caregivers want their children to succeed! Schools can communicate how children’s earliest experiences with math can build a strong foundation for their later school achievement.
  • Team up with fellow community-based partners. Schools and other neighborhood settings can help one another with knowledge, space, and relationships with families within a community. By coordinating and pooling resources, schools and community centers may be able to offer events with greater reach and impact.
  • To align math at home and school, add family engagement to the school curriculum. Lesson plans can include flexible, open-ended activities that reinforce math content taught at school in ways that caregivers can adapt to suit their own families’ practices and interests.
  • Support efforts that consider communities’ unique contributions and needs. The places and spaces where families spend time and interact with their community provide great opportunities to tailor family math efforts that are accessible and relevant.
  • Offer more resources and events to underserved families. Events and installations that are low- or no-cost for families can be placed in underserved communities. It is also critical to consider the technology, language, and literacy demands of resources, and adaptations that are usable for all families.
  • Address math attitudes as part of intervention work. Since expectations and attitudes can have big impacts on math achievement, research should examine how interventions can also reduce caregivers’ math anxiety or promote positive attitudes about math.
  • Collaborate with families and practitioners, and use open-ended research methods to broaden the concept of family math. In order to build on what families are already doing, we need to increase our understanding of what family math looks like in diverse cultural and socioeconomic settings. By partnering with practitioners, and building on strengths of what families are already doing, this work is much more likely to be successful.
  • Follow interventions over time and across larger samples. It is unclear whether short-term effects from brief interventions will continue to influence family math engagement or children’s math outcomes. It will be important to understand what it takes to sustain the positive effects of interventions in order to determine what approaches have the most lasting effects.

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DREME Network

DREME Network

A network of scholars in early math education, conducting research & developing materials to promote young children’s math learning. https://dreme.stanford.edu