At the end of a workshop or a mini-course session, parents are usually given surveys to let us know what they thought about their experiences. I wanted to know more. I wanted to go to the homes of some of the parents who participated in the Data For Parents mini-course at Hohokam Middle School this past fall semester, 2009.
I first needed a set of questions to ask and structured it around no more than 20 questions and/or a 30 minute to 45 minute length interview. The questions focused on the parents’ learning experiences in mathematics in school and during the mini-course. They also focused on what their strengths and areas of improvements in mathematics before the MAPPS mini-course and after the MAPPS mini-course. I also wanted to know what they wanted me to know about their child as a learner and about them as a learner. Another piece was asking how they involved mathematics or learning mathematics at the home, as a family.
In the beginning of my learning experience, I encountered parents who were not comfortable with a home visit. This is completely normal, but you will find a parent or two who will open their doors to you. As an offering of thanks and a good way to break the ice, I brought some tamales to the family. Once one door opens, others will follow.
Maria Jimenez is a single mother of three children, 7, 4, and 2 years of age. She and her mother Ana Guzman participated in the MAPPS Mini-Course at their nearby middle school, Hohokam Middle School. Maria’s older daughter attends a feeder school of Hohokam. Ana’s grandson, who she is taking care of at home, is in 4th grade and also attends the same elementary school. Along with the other parents, they both participated once a week for eight weeks last fall semester.
As a result of taking the mini-course, Maria is taking classes at a nearby community college to prepare her to work in Medical Records and Billings. In one of her math classes, she worked on stem-and-leaf plots, finding the mean, median, and mode, and other topics that were taught during the mini-course. She felt so comfortable being in this math class because she felt better prepared.
Maria: “In Math 82, the college course I am taking now, four of my sections were on mean, median, and mode on all the graphs. On the actual test, it was actually our final exam, I got a 90. It was on mean, median, and mode and all the histograms.. (Parent Interview, April 2010).”
I asked both Maria and Ana how they felt about taking the mini-course for 8 weeks and the following was their feedback:
Christina:”How did you feel about going for 8 weeks? Was that too lengthy?”
Maria: “No. I would have kept on going. It was like a break. I loved the childcare and the dinner. I mean it was like a break, I loved it.”
Ana: “You feel like you were doing something to help your kids. And they see that you are involved with the school and that you are trying as a parent to help them so it makes them want to try harder too (Parent Interview, April 2010).”
The following are some of the suggestions that both Maria and Ana shared for the schools to think about for future sessions:
1. They need help with knowing how to help their children with the current homework.Â Especially to understand what the worksheets were asking their children to do. So, there could be the MAPPS night and at the last 30 minute, go over their child’s homework.
2. With the homework help, have the students come back to the MAPPS night and both parent and student are getting help at the same time.
3. Have teachers provide a step by step guide for parents to use when trying to help their children at home with the homework (Parent Interview, April 2010).
After leaving their home, I felt that I understood more of what the parents wanted. Both felt more empowered in mathematics after taking the Data for Parents and more able to help their children at home. Both Ana and Maria furthered shared how they were able to help their 4th grader with constructing a stem-and-leaf plot and a box-and-whisker plot that he was asked to do for homework. What Ana also shared about being an example to her grandson was one of my “aha” moments. Not only can parents learn the mathematics for themselves, but they are also being examples to their children about learning. It is essential for anyone who is utilizing the MAPPS Program at their school or district to conduct home visits from time to time in order to get a feel as to what is being done to the relationship between parent and student in the learning of mathematics.
Things to Consider:
1. When either the workshops or mini-courses are being advertised, parents need to know that it is open to anyone who has students in any grade level K-8 and what it will specifically focus on.
2. It is also important for schools to make time afterwards for both parents and students to receive help in the homework that was assigned that day or week.
3. You may want to consider aligning workshops or mini-courses according to the sequencing of math topics that are being taught during that particular time of the school year.
4. Think of the information you can get from making a home visit to your parents. Share with us your experiences on the blog.
Note: Both parent names are pseudonyms.