Everyday Maths - A University of Bristol Research Project

Stage: 1 and 2 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1


Overview

"Everyday Maths" is an exciting new project, run by Bristol University, working with parents of Year 3/4 children in 20 Bristol primary schools. The project aims to help parents think about the way they use maths in everyday life, so they can support their children’s learning. Most parents want to help their children learn, but often don’t feel confident with maths and aren’t sure how best to help. However, parents have a lot of experience using maths, even though this may be different from what is done at school. Parents sharing these experiences with their children can really help with maths learning.

There will be three parts to this project. The first part, from February to June 2013, asked parents about their feelings around helping their children with maths: the kinds of activities they do which involve maths, how confident they are at helping, how often they help, how much they think their children enjoy maths, and so on. During the second part, from September 2013 to July 2014, the project team will support parents from four primary schools in a series of workshops, to share the ways in which they use maths and develop ideas around how they can use this to support their children’s learning. These workshops will be led by parents and focus on what is important and relevant to them in their lives. The third part of the project will evaluate how effective the workshops were at developing parents’ confidence in helping their children, and how schools and parents can use the workshop approach for themselves, outside of the project.

The project will help us understand more about home-school partnerships, and ways that parents can support their children’s learning. A toolkit for successful and sustainable parent workshops will help schools to develop home-school partnerships to support children's maths learning.

For more information about the Everyday Maths project, please see the project website.  Alternatively, contact Dr Tim Jay on 0117 331 4225 or tim.jay@bristol.ac.uk.


First part of the project - parents' questionnaires and focus groups
The 'Everyday Maths' survey was distributed and collected during the second half of the Spring Term and the early part of the Summer term in 2013. 243 parents completed the questionnaire and initial analysis showed that:
  • The majority of respondents say that their children do school maths at home one or two days per week, and that they usually help their children with school maths one or two days per week.
  • The majority of respondents believe that a child's education is either equally the school's and the parents' responsibility, or mainly the school’s responsibility.
  • The majority of respondents are confident in their own maths ability, and in their ability to help their children with maths, and have communication and relationships with their children's school about maths (how their child is doing, how maths is taught and so on). However, a notable minority felt less confident about their own maths ability and about their ability to help their children, and were less satisfied with the communication with their children's school about maths.
You can read more about the questionnaire results here.

During the summer term in 2013 the researchers ran focus groups in 15 schools across Bristol, and 1 inner-city school in Birmingham. They also spoke to parents at the end of the school day.

Here is a summary of what parents said:
  • Maths at home: Even though a few parents felt that they did not engage their children in maths at home, most could talk about how they supported their children’s learning in ‘everyday’ contexts. Common examples included parents and children talking about money, particularly when shopping or saving pocket money. Cooking was also talked about lots, with children helping to weigh food, time how long food is in the oven, and estimate portion size.
  • Maths and play: Parents felt that maths emerged naturally out of children’s play, e.g. when children shared sweets, played games like hopscotch or Top Trumps.
  • Homework: Parents recognised that the maths taught in school today was different to the maths taught when parents went to school. Whilst some had the confidence and resources to help with homework, most felt unable to help properly. Parents said they felt ‘lost’, ‘confused’ and ‘left behind’. Because of this, a few parents avoided helping with homework.
  • Support from schools: Some parents were happy with the support they got from schools, particularly if those schools ran maths workshops, told parents the topics being taught each week, and if teachers came across as ‘approachable’. However, some parents felt frustrated over the lack of information about how to do the latest maths techniques taught in school. Other parents wanted to know how to motivate children to do homework, and how to make maths creative and fun.
  • Value of maths: Parents often talked about how important maths was in everyday life.  They wanted their children to do well so they could go to university and get good jobs.
  • Maths and gender: Some mums made a special effort to appear confident about maths in front of their daughters.  They were worried about the stereotyped view that girls were not as good as maths as boys.
You can read more about the focus groups here.


This article was first published in January 2013 and updated in July 2013, then October 2013.