Family Maths Events
Are you looking for a new way to engage your school community? Why not ditch the bath bombs on Mother’s Day this year and make marvellous mathematical memories instead? Use the Paper Planes challenge to run a flying competition. Be inspired by the Symmetry Challenge to create a tapestry of symmetrical designs at a Father’s Day breakfast.
Research has shown that parents and carers can have a big impact on their children’s attitudes and beliefs towards maths. An event such as a Family Maths Night or a Maths Morning Tea involves families coming to your school for 45 minutes or more to engage in fun and open-ended maths challenges and activities. These events can be a great way for schools to make a positive connection with families. A night of hands-on, collaborative challenges can present maths in a different light to what parents and carers may remember from their own experience.
The Victorian Maths Challenge can be used as the basis for family maths events. The variety of problems and investigations promote maths as a creative, enjoyable and important subject. Each challenge showcases how mathematical skills, approaches and understandings are used to solve problems in fields such as design, construction, marine engineering, navigation and aviation. The challenges can spark conversations about how maths impacts our daily lives, how it is used across a wide range of professionals fields and the crucial role it will play in solving future problems. The videos introducing each challenge showcase how STEM disciplines are linked to current professional fields.
Parent communities of schools that have hosted a Victorian Maths Challenge family maths night or morning tea describe the experience as “very positive”. They saw the challenges as “fun, challenging and engaging.” Participating students were enthusiastic and engaged. They shared their own ideas for challenges. Teachers responded positively to the quality of the challenges and their usefulness as tools for fostering engagement, and their capacity to engender positive attitudes towards mathematics.
How to host a successful Family Maths Event
Family maths events can range from a forty-five minute Maths Morning Tea to multiple Family Maths Nights over a term. The important thing is that families get a chance to engage with some fun maths concepts.
Like so many things, Family Maths Events work best if there is a bit of planning beforehand. Firstly, lock in support from other teachers and/or student volunteers. You will want approximately as many staff members as challenges you are running. Decide when and where you want to run it. A large open space like a gym or library usually works well. Secondly, choose which challenges you want to use for your event. Familiarise yourself with the Victorian Maths Challenge, including how to submit entries. Thirdly, logistics! Organise promotion, catering and materials. We have provided some downloadable tools and templates below, for those who find such things useful.
During your event you should expect some joyful chaos. Staff and students just need to be on hand to provide support and ask prompting questions.
Depending on the event, it is worth considering:
- providing food, coffee and tea
- if you want families to move in a specific order, or as they wish
- providing a ‘Family Passport’ so that people can tick off challenges they have tried
- if you want to have a formal welcome, or if you want to just let people join in as they arrive
- if you want to have a formal end to the event, with some discussion about the maths explored during the event
- asking for feedback through an evaluation survey
Advice for secondary teachers
Secondary school parents have a tendency to ‘scale back’ their involvement in their child’s maths, often due to their own perceived mathematical shortcomings. A Victorian Maths Challenge event gives schools an opportunity to reestablish the importance of parent interest and involvement in their child’s mathematics. It might be easier to start by targeting Year 7 students and their families.
Family Maths Events in action!
The video produced at several schools in Mildura gives a great sense of the atmosphere and excitement that can be built at a Family Maths Event
Download the Family Maths Event pack
Maloney, E. A., Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E. A., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. L. (2015). Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety. Psychological Science, 26(9), 1480–1488.