08 Simple strategies that enhanced learner-centred relationships with parents

In some schools, individual teachers and syndicates were using simple strategies to involve parents in their children's learning.

The first school sought information from parents about mathematics in their everyday lives, to make mathematics learning more authentic and meaningful for children.

Children in the second school were keen to explain to us how much they valued using digital devices to share their learning with parents.

Teachers in the third school wanted to help children stay focused on the skills they were learning at school during the school holidays. They sent home activities and tracking sheets that were fun and easy to use.

In one school, teachers of Years 3 and 4 children had enlisted parent support to show the relevance of maths in day-to-day contexts. They wanted to help children understand how maths was used authentically in everyday lives. Every class in the syndicate had a 'Family Maths Book' that children had turns taking home during the year.

Teachers invited parents to contribute a picture or a simple statement illustrating how they used maths in their everyday life. The scrapbooks became a useful class resource children used for mathematics and literacy learning. The invitation sent home to parents is shown below.

Dear Middle Syndicate Parents and Caregivers

Research has shown that for many children, mathematics is seen as something that is done at school and is of limited use outside of the classroom. In order to try and show how wide the use of mathematics is, we have prepared a Family Maths Book for each class.

Each child in turn will take the book home. We would ask parents and caregivers to use one page and show how they use mathematics in their (the adult's) day. This could be in the form of a picture or even just a sentence; it does not need to be a major production! It could show one or more ways of how maths is used at home (or at work) in terms of number, geometry, measurement, statistics or algebra. If you want to use a picture but cannot print it off please email the picture to your child's teacher and we will do it for you.

Your help here would be most appreciated, as I am sure the discussion we can have about how maths is used will be very useful for our children.

Many thanks

Middle Syndicate Teachers

Parents readily contributed to the Family Maths Book. As they saw the contributions of others, it helped them see how they could add to it.

Below are some of the parent's contributions to the Family Maths Book.

Sophia's Mum

One of the jobs I do is running saveloy days. I use maths to work out what supplies I need. The saveloys are sold by the kilogram, but I need to know how many kilograms I need to fill the order for a particular quantity of saveloys. I know that 20 kilograms (kgs) of saveloys equals about 250 saveloys, so I use this to order. If 300 saveloys are needed I would buy 300/250 x 20kg = 24 kg.

The bread has 21 slices per loaf, not including crusts (because who eats crust), so I work out how many loaves I need by dividing by 21, then rounding up to the nearest whole number (because I can't buy half a loaf). Say 280 people want white bread and 20 want brown I buy 280/21 = 13.3 so I buy 14 loaves of white bread and 1 loaf of brown bread. Any leftover bread gets frozen.

Because all the people in the PTA are volunteers the PTA makes some profit (money left over) from everyone's $2 orders, after paying for the saveloys, bread and sauce. They use the money to help the school improve the learning environment for you buying such things as Chromebooks and new playground facilities. So instead of the pay, the reward for the helpers is knowing that they are helping the school.

Parents' contribution gave scope for lots of class discussions about the varied nature of maths in the lives of their parents. As well as illustrating maths in everyday lives, they also helped with reading and writing discussions.

In another school, leaders focused on children being able to access their schoolwork online from home to promote opportunities for children to share their learning with their parents.

The increase of digital devices in the school had influenced how children shared their learning at home. Children told us how they now shared their learning with their parents and whanau when they took their Chromebooks home. They enthusiastically told us about how much more support and help they are now getting at home because their parents can see what they are working on.

Children shared how they worked at home and now completed more of their work.

Everything we need to do is on our Chromebooks. On our Chromebooks we have passports for maths, reading and writing.

We know what to do. We have a google classroom. We have our class website.

At home we can go onto my school account and they can see the stuff I'm doing.

When I go home after school I go onto my computer and say, Mum and Dad! Come and look at this!

At home I sometimes finish off work.

At home my Mum will help me and stuff.

My parents know what I'm learning. I just go home after school and show them. I go onto google classroom. It's like the open evening, like a student-led conference

The third school wanted to help support children's continuity of learning over the summer holidays. They put together a collection of fun ideas for families to consider using during the holidays. They distributed the ideas in a format that parents could pop on to the front of the fridge to remind them of possible activities to support their child's learning. During an assembly in February each year teachers acknowledged all the children that had brought evidence of their holiday learning.