Family math night adds up to academic success

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Kindergarteners Rebel Desoto (left) and Jack Mahoney (right) play a numbers game with a deck of playing cards called Top-It during Waggoner elementary school’s math night. Photo by Rosemary Hemenway.

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By Gregory Moffitt

We’ve been holding Math Nights for the past several years at Winters Elementary to encourage students and their families to learn about math.
At first, they were simply Information Sessions for parents to learn about newly adopted state standards and our curriculum. But after attending a Family Math Night sponsored by a neighboring school District, we quickly realized the benefit of inviting the whole family and doing math together.
For our first Family Math Night, we partnered with the UC Davis Math Project to learn games and strategies to engage families in conversations about math.
Since then, we’ve continued to utilize games at Family Math Nights and have also focused on math and money and resources that can be found online.
Last Thursday, we decided to play Bingo and then showed families other math games that could be played with a simple deck of cards. Dice and dominoes are also readily available items that can be used to make math fun.
While playing Bingo, we encouraged families to talk about the numbers that were called out and then challenged them to think about them in different ways. What numbers could be added together to get that Bingo number as a sum? What would happen to the number if we added 5? Or took away 5? What would happen if we doubled the number? Did that number have any factors?
Whether you’re playing a math game or any game, when families play together and talk together, learning increases.
If parents weren’t able to attend, materials that were handed out will be posted on our website (http://wes.wintersjusd.org).
We realize that it is a busy time of year and that it can be hard to get back to school on a Thursday evening, but we think these events are valuable. Anytime families are able to come to school, they show their children that education is important.
And while this can happen at a Family Math Night, it also happens when they attend Family Conferences, PTA activities, Parent Workshops, school-wide events and even when they drop off and pick up their children. The message that we send to our children about education and it’s value happens all the time.
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