As with many ex-teachers, my inspiration was my own experience in school, and the desire to scale something we created which was transformational for us, and I knew would be for others.

I always say to anyone - look out for the products set up and run by ex-teachers, they’re always the best!

Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s learning, and levels of parental engagement are consistently associated with better outcomes. Evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation's Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that "effective parental engagement can lead to learning gains of over 3 months over the course of a year".

However, it can be a difficult and time consuming job to get parents involved in the right way. Thankfully, edtech is shaping the future of parental engagement and is helping schools to break down barriers to communication, as well as encouraging and enabling parents to take an active role in their children’s learning journeys.

Parental engagement in any subject is key to academic success - some studies show a probability increase of more than 50% for children who are supported by parents in their learning to achieve top grades versus children who receive little or no support.

From our experience working with over 45,000 children, families and schools across the UK to provide one-to-one maths tuition, parental support for their child’s maths learning journey in primary school has a significant impact.

The Education Endowment Foundation has recently published a guidance report Working with parents to support children’s learning. Here’s what it states:

“Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s learning, and levels of parental engagement are consistently associated with better academic outcomes. Evidence from our Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that effective parental engagement can lead to learning gains of +3 months over the course of a year.”

So why is it so hard sometimes to get parents involved in their children’s Maths education?

As teachers, we often worry that parents might be put off supporting in Maths at home as they might simply think of themselves as “not being a Maths person”, but when we asked 1000 parents for their views on maths at home, only 16% of respondents agreed with that statement.

Similarly, less than 20% confirmed that “My child refuses to let them teach”.

In fact, the most common concerns were about parents own knowledge and skills.

Over 62% of parents agreed with the statement: “I worry that I will confuse my child by teaching them a different method to the one they learn in school.”

And 54% agreed with the following: “I don't understand all the new terms schools use”.

The EEF Guidance Report On Working With Parents to Support Children’s Learning gives four key recommendations which are a great place to start.

1. Critically review how you work with parents

2.  Provide practical strategies to support learning at home

3. Tailor school communications to encourage positive dialogue about learning

4. Offer more sustained and intensive support where needed

Specifically when it comes to supporting parents and carers with maths at home, here are the 7 steps we recommend all schools start with.

1. Don’t keep your calculation policy secret!

Every school should have a calculation policy and all teachers should know where to find it and how to teach to it; however, ask a parent about the calculation policy and you’ll be amazed to discover they probably don’t know it exists and they certainly wouldn’t have thought to ask for it. ‘It’s on the website’ isn’t good enough. Get it out there, share it every year with parents. Point out what changes as they move through the school.  

2. Emphasise the importance of conceptual understanding

Many parents will still just be thinking about helping their child to get the answer right. Given schools now are much more likely to be following some kind of mastery approach we recommend you try to educate parents that understanding the reasons behind the result are as important as the result.

3. Show parents how to use concrete materials or pictorial representations

Encourage parents to get out the pasta pieces, use leaves for place value, draw their pizza shapes, and manipulate dots and circles on a page. Take a look at Matr’s Youtube channel which is full of ideas of physical maths activities for parents to do at home.  

4. Give them strategies not just instructions

If you want parents to practise times tables with their children, then give them some suggested ideas and games or even apps to help them do this. Teach them which number facts they should know at every stage, and also how to use the partition method to avoid the dreaded counting in ones! Send home a list of recommended maths homework apps or websites. Just don’t expect them to know how to help without your support!

5. Support parents to focus on positive feedback

Confidence is key in Maths, and mistakes should be seen as something to learn from. We still believe that encouraging a growth mindset in our one-to-one lessons can help pupils take risks and achieve further than they imagined. We like to share phrases for parents to use at home like ‘‘thank you for your effort on X” and we also reward our 1-to-1 children with effort points that they collect avidly!

6. Give parents questions to help develop pupils’ reasoning skills and metacognition

As teachers, we naturally use questions from an assessment for learning approach in our lessons. Show some of these to your parents too and they can start to probe and supporting their child’s deeper thinking and awareness of their own learning stages.

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you know?
  • Which skills have you used or improved?
  • Have you learnt something new?
  • What do you need to remember?
  • What did you do well today?
  • What was difficult about the task?
  • How is your work different?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What else could you find out about this?
  • Could you discuss what you have learnt with a partner (a sibling, friend or cousin)? / How would you teach someone else how to do this?
  • Is there a more efficient strategy you could have used?
  • How do you know your answer is correct?
  • Can you prove and explain your answer to me?
  • What were the key steps in reaching your answer?

7. Offer regular opportunities for parents to ask questions and keep updated

As the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) states: “Focus on building parents’ efficacy: that they are equal partners and can make a difference.” Upskill your parents and carers with training sessions or workshops (at a time that suits them!); focus on key skills and concepts, start with place value and the four operations - division,  multiplication, addition and subtraction. Lots of schools now even get pupils involved in this!

Those are our 7 first simple steps for school leaders and maths coordinators to take on board the EEF recommendations and set the ball rolling for excellent Maths support from parents. For more detailed curriculum guidance aimed at a parent readership, the series of blog posts on how to support your child in Maths on the Matr website is a good place to start. 

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In 2008 I was in my NQT year and teaching at South Rise Primary School. I had just been appointed as shadow ICT coordinator and given my first project. The ICT coordinator had applied successfully to the Local Authority for funding to start a community project with parents. We had written the application form, asking for money to buy five digital cameras. These would be used as part of a project to reach those parents whom we felt needed more of our support, or were “harder to reach” for whatever reasons. When we were granted the money, it fell to me to then run the project.

Reading is incredibly important in supporting students’ overall growth. It’s a predictor of success in further education and life, with achievement in Mathematics and reading significantly associated with academic motivation and quality of life. So it is understandable that education policy largely focuses on developing strong readers at an early age. With that focus comes assessment requirements that can be confusing to parents and exhausting to educators. How do we communicate the value of assessments and the importance of data they return?

How best to make the most of the individuals and organisations in your local area? We approached a group of community-minded innovators with two big challenges facing schools. First up...

“When am I ever going to use Pythagoras?”; “Why do I need to know what a noun is?”; “What’s the point in learning this?”... Sound familiar? You must be a teacher. If you’ve been teaching for some time, you probably know that questioning the purpose of education is nothing new. Do you ever wonder what your parents were like at school? Did they ask the same questions when it was their turn?

Everyone agrees: children do better when their parents show an interest in their school activities, help their learning, and praise their achievements. Attendance increases, children’s motivation is higher, and classroom behaviour, happiness and outcomes all improve. It’s no wonder that parent engagement is a key school priority, and a select intervention to help close the gap for disadvantaged children. So how are some schools getting it so wrong?

Fact: The more families talk positively about school, the better children do. Attendance increases, children’s motivation is higher, and classroom behaviour, happiness and outcomes improve.

Research shows that if parents engage with their child’s education, the attainment of the child will increase by 15%, no matter what the social background of their family.” (Oxford School Improvement, The Pupil Premium)

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