06 Working closely with families to accelerate children's progress in mathematics

ERO shared details about positive relationships when responding to underachievement in Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau.

Leaders and teachers at ABERDEEN SCHOOL and EAST TAIERI SCHOOL

identified the learning strengths, needs and interests of the children along with their parents' aspirations for them. The school responded to underachievement with deliberate actions and innovations that involved parents and whanau. Then they responded to those that worked for each child and refocused on the next actions.

Leaders and teachers at the two schools responded to an annual charter target to raise children's mathematics' achievement. They focused on the children needing to make the most progress. During their trials, they recognised the value of involving parents more when responding to underachievement.

Aberdeen School

Leaders and teachers worked closely with 22 children who were below expectation in mathematics and involved their parents so they could increase the children's progress. They met with the children just before the school holidays. They explained that the children could make good progress if they did some extra work over the holidays.

Teachers said to the children, you're really close to where you need to be for your age and with a little bit of extra effort you can get there. The teachers put together work for children to do over the holidays, matched to the skills they needed to focus on.

We contacted the parents and said something like your child has the potential to reach the standard if we work together. They wanted to know how they could help, as we said we would give the children things they needed to work on and give the parents really specific examples of how to help. The parents were all on board and were really pleased we were doing something."

Deputy principal

Teachers gave each child a personalised set of mathematics problems to solve. They were different for each child as they focused on what each child already knew and could build on. Teachers also provided examples of strategies children could use to help them and their families/whānau. Almost all the children completed the extra work successfully during the holidays.

At mid-year parent interviews, teachers shared successes with parents and explained the next area of focus for their child. Teachers continued the personalised books for targeted children. Every activity in the book was included for a deliberate purpose. The teachers didn't want to overload children, so they included a variety of ideas such as family games and activities.

At the end of the year, they had a celebration. Only two out of the 22 children did not complete the homework activities. This reinforced for the teachers that parents could make a difference. Many parents came in afterwards to personally thank their child's teacher for providing the maths work. At the middle of the year, 64 percent of Year 4 children were on track to reach the expected level. At the end of 2016, teachers identified 88 percent of children as being at the standard in mathematics.

Children had responded really well to the extra mathematics work. They enjoyed working with their parents and grandparents. They told ERO evaluators they were keen to continue over the coming Christmas holidays. Some of their comments are shared on the next page.

"I've been learning lots and lots at school, and lots and lots at home. We did some holiday maths so that we could get onto Level 2. I got a lot of help because some was pretty hard and my Grandad said, "I'll come and help you." Since I kept practising, I moved up a level. Grandad was really proud of me."

"I got really, really better. It was awesome. You got to learn stuff that was easy but the right level. Everyone got the right level for them."

"I knew some times tables but I needed to know more. I practised every day - I had cards and I flicked them over 'til I got them. My sister tested me."

"My Mum was proud of me too. I am really good at gymnastics but I stopped for 3 or 4 weeks so I could do better at school. I am really good at gymnastics."

"I'd like to do one for this holidays [over Christmas] but bigger and more challenging."

Year 4 children

East Taieri School

Many of the improvements in the ways teachers worked with parents resulted from their involvement in the Ministry of Education projects, Accelerating Learning Literacy (ALL) and Accelerating Learning in Mathematics (ALiM). Teachers met with parents before, during and after each child was involved in the ALiM intervention. During the intervention, they aimed to involve parents in authentic mathematics learning with their child. They also built on existing practices such as involving parents in mathematics evenings where children ran some of the sessions.

We run a maths evening every second year for our school community. It is very successful in terms of participation. We always have a large crowd where about 75 percent of our school community come. We have about six to eight children from our classes running knowledge or strategy examples sessions. If you have the children run it and do the teaching, you get the parents.

We transform our large shared space at school into junior, middle and senior maths areas so parents and children can come to the evening and see the progression for our maths programme. They can see the foundations in the junior school and then progression further on through the stages. They see the equipment used at different levels and how this is also supported with the use of computer programmes or apps.

Leaders

Every second Friday, children in the ALiM intervention had Breakfast Maths where they shared their progress and learning strategies with parents. Every child's parents came and saw the strategies their child was learning, while enjoying a shared breakfast. By the end of the 10 weeks, the children were able to explain to their families what they were doing and why they were using a particular strategy.

Children in the group also went on a Maths Big Day Out with their teacher where they visited their parents at work to see mathematics in action in the workplace. One parent was a builder and others worked in a cafe, the Post Office, the library, a supermarket and a travel centre. Children learnt about the costs when posting mail, how to stick to budgets, making sure you make a profit to pay the bills, how to design a holiday and how to arrange library books. They used some of these skills to plan and run a bake sale to raise money for a child requiring expensive medical treatment.

At the end of the programme, the teachers met with each child and their parents to help sustain progress. Teachers gave families a toolkit of ideas, and children shared the knowledge and strategies they had mastered with their parents.

Teachers used similar parent partnership strategies to help the children in an ALL intervention make additional progress. Teachers met with the parents before the programme began and discussed the child's strengths and interests. Each week during the programme, they communicated with parents and sent home a sample of the child's work. Some parents visited the writing club and led art, baking and other activities that inspired writing activities. At the end of each five-week block, teachers gave parents a written report on their child's progress and next steps. Some parents sent feedback to teachers sharing the improvements they saw in their child's writing.