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The information below is an executive summary of research into parental engagement in maths. If you would like more information please click the button at the end of the page.

Parental Engagement in Mathematics

Research has found that parental engagement in mathematics is generally underdeveloped in comparison to engagement in literacy (particularly reading) due to a wide range of barriers.

Being numerate goes beyond simply ‘doing sums’ – it means having the confidence and competence to use numbers to make decisions in everyday life. The definition of numeracy is everyday maths. Poor numeracy is a strong indicator of deprivation. Those with good numeracy skills are more likely to be in employment, earn more, and be in good health.

So why is parental engagement in children’s maths learning important? Through developing positive attitudes and improving their own skills in maths and numeracy, parents can improve their own life chances, those of their children, and help the UK to emerge from its numeracy crisis. Parents give children their first experience of maths, and it is important that this is positive. Children who hear ‘I can’t do maths’ are likely to start believing maths is unimportant.

A large body of research has shown that children whose parents take an active interest in their child’s learning make greater progress at school. However, many parents feel unconfident in their own maths ability and/or in engaging with their child’s school. This in turn affects their confidence and competence in supporting their children. Sometimes, it is not lack of confidence but of time/ work commitments. Furthermore, strategies for engaging parents are significantly more developed in literacy than maths. Existing strategies in relation to maths are subject to the negative influence of experiences, attitudes and behaviours prevalent in the UK.

Research has shown that around 80% of the difference in how well children do at school is dependent on what happens outside the school gates, whether it is in the home or in the wider community. (Save the Children, 2013)

Parental engagement is now generally accepted as a prerequisite to successful learning. When parents are fully engaged in their children’s learning, research suggests that children’s attainment, behaviour and often attendance improves. Analysis of data, following trials of parental engagement maths events and resources in schools, has supported these findings. However, it is also an aspect of teaching with which many teachers feel unprepared and untrained. Similarly, parents face a number of complex barriers that may prevent them from engaging with their child’s learning. These are explored more fully in the full summary of research and it is essential schools understand which of these are relevant to their parents.

School and communities vary so there so there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Field research, conducted by National Numeracy, explored the issues raised by a range of literature. To support schools in developing effective strategies for parental engagement, particularly in maths, resources were developed and schools were encouraged to audit their existing provision and plan for the communities they serve. Evidence suggests that whole-school approaches to parental engagement, in Maths, led by the subject leader (but crucially must have the SLT’s support) are the most successful in engaging parents with their child’s learning.

However, it is vital that all staff are fully aware of the rationale and fully committed to its success as any initiative must be consistently applied throughout the school in order for it to be sustainable. The positive impact and benefits have been clearly shown by those schools who have worked hard to implement an effective action plan. Attitudes, enjoyment, participation have all increased and therefore achievement has been raised – great for families, the school and most of all for the children themselves!

“Parental engagement has a significant effect throughout a child’s school years gains in pupil achievement stemming from parental engagement initiatives tend to be permanent” (Parental Engagement, how to make a real difference Oxford School Improvement, 2012).

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