HomeMath in the Mountains

Creating Community Connections with a Family Math Night

Creating Community Connections with a Family Math Night
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I have a vision of helping all Mountain Valley School students graduate with a solid foundation of numeracy and mathematical reasoning. This is unremarkable, I am the high school math teacher, this should be my vision! There are a number of ways I try to achieve this vision. I integrate technology into my classroom, use project-based-learning, encourage creativity and critical-thinking. We work on having a growth mindset culture in math class. However, it takes more than this to develop a math-positive culture. In an effort encourage positivity around math, we hosted our first Family Math Night on Thursday, April 20, 2017. The goal was to give families a positive math experience and provide resources for them to continue these positive experiences at home. If we can get young kids and families excited about math, they will be able to achieve so much more than if they have a negative attitude towards the subject.

Saguache County provided funding to purchase double dice, triple dice, playing cards, and mini-dominoes to be combined into take-home kits for families via a local sales-tax grant. Then I worked with our intermediate math teacher to come up with games to play during Family Math Night as well as send home with families. I planned to have my high school students showcase some of our PBL activities and facilitate the games during Family Math Night. The only thing left to do was encourage families to attend.

It was scary to create what I hoped would be an awesome school and family event when I wasn’t sure if people would show up. I started advertising on Facebook a month before the event. I recently took the EdTechTeam Teacher Leader course which included a class on visual literacy where I learned how important it is to make things look good when trying to communicate a message. I applied what I learned in this class to my advertising campaign. This is one of my Facebook posts:

Family Math Night red.png

I could tell I was onto something when I heard from a number of adults that the math evening sounded interesting, but they were nervous about going to a “math night” because they had struggled with math and didn’t want to have to “do math” in front of other people. They wanted reassurance that they wouldn’t be put on the spot in front of other parents or their kids.

About a week before the event, I went full-court press with my campaign to get families to our Family Math Night. I started chasing down parents of young children in the parking lot and personally inviting them to the event. The elementary teachers were promoting the event in their classrooms. I even got dinosaurs involved.

Family Math Night dinosaur

By the day of the event, many people had come together to make the event a success. The high school and middle school science teachers had booths relating math to gardening and pendulums. The social studies teacher volunteered to take Polaroid pictures of kids in front of the dinosaur photo backdrop. The intermediate math teacher created a shaving cream math booth. A parent made the salad to go along with the pizza. The fifth-grade class blew up balloons to give the gym a festive look. One of my students spent her only day off working with me to get the take-home kits and games ready.

And then people started pouring in! It was SO exciting! The high school students were great with the younger children. Parents visited with each other and went to different booths with their students. Families had a great time with math and each other. The two administrators were a fantastic help, spending their time facilitating games, announcing prize winners, and then helping me clean up for over an hour after the event.

I took about 60 pictures of the event and included them on a Google Site along with information about math-positivity, growth mindset, as well as directions and ideas for integrating math into family activities at home. I used the skills I learned from EdTechTeam to create the site. The take-home kits included a link and QR code to the site which was also shared on social media after the event. Here is a link to the Mountain Valley 2017 Family Math Night website.

Starting a Family Math Night was a risk, but the payoff was huge! This will definitely be a tradition at Mountain Valley School!

I purchased many of the supplies from Creative Mathematics and used many resources from Youcubed.org