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Curriculum Details for
Family Math

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Practitioner Expert
Content Expert
Family Math
Publication Date: 1986
Grade Level: K–8
Content Focus: Math
Costs: $20 - $25 for books, $1,500 for staff training
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
Lawrence Hall of Science
University of California
Berkeley, CA, 94720
(510) 642-5134

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Design Summary

This community-based program is designed specifically for informal learning out of the classroom. It brings parents into the school to engage in math activities with their children in workshops and also provides parents with ways to help their children with math at home. The primary goal is to inform parents about the role of mathematics in their child's education. The program also creates awareness and competence for parents to help their children with math so that they know how to help and have confidence in their math skills. While family involvement is a key component, Family Math can also be used in with groups of students alone.  The developers’ pedagogical philosophy is that math is not a secret, that everyone is capable of doing math, and that not everyone approaches or learns it in the same way.

The curriculum comes in the form of a book and includes activities that focus on different mathematical strands (logical reasoning, geometry, algebraic thinking, etc.).  All of the activities in Family Math are hands-on and work toward real-world application. The games are all engaging at both the child and adult levels so that the parents stay interested as well. This program is unique in the way that it encourages discussion about math. It does not ignore basic foundations but brings more critical thinking into play than rote math curricula typically do.

Costs and Staff Training

The cost of the Family Math books ranges from $19 to $25. If the site is an official Family Math site, they receive a 40% discount on books for use in the workshops. Additional programming costs may include consumable materials that are typically already in a school or home (scissors, paper, pasta, beans, etc.) and human time to run the workshop sessions.

Training costs about $1500 per day for the 2-day training, which usually occurs at Lawrence Hall in Berkeley, California. If the training is outside of the Berkeley area, the cost may be increased to account for travel costs. The training models the program and talks about characteristics of exemplary math problems, such as being multidimensional, multi-ability level (i.e., multiple points of entry). The trainers discuss challenges of implementation, how to avoid these challenges, and how to find support networks.

Staff Qualifications

Teaching experience is not required, although helpful, when implementing Family Math.  Expert and practitioner reviewers agree that it is most important that those who teach Family Math be well versed in the activities, and consider approaching their work with students as a “co-explorer” as opposed to viewing their role as an authority on the subject. One practitioner has seen Family Math implemented successfully by YMCA providers and afterschool program directors who do not have formal teaching experience.

Standards Alignment

  • National: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • State: None specified

Research Base

General research about how children and adults learn and what is important for students to know about math.

Evaluation Details

Independent evaluations of Family Math have been performed. The developers have not looked at academic performance specifically, but instead are more focused on attitudinal changes toward math in teachers, parents, and students. Students have shown a change in attitude as well, including liking math more than before, being more confident in math abilities, and being better divergent thinkers.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

  • Once the teacher introduces the instructions, lessons are entirely student-directed.
  • Curriculum offers a variety of ways for students to engage in the topic and is accessible to a wide variety of learning styles.
  • Emphasis on group work and discussion trains students to break down multi-step and complex problems.
  • Game-like and exploratory environment encourages students to persist when faced with challenges.
  • Spurs interest in math – students start enjoying and looking forward to it. Gives students a different way of looking at math.
  • Develops a sense of numeracy and a deeper understanding of what is going on with math.
  • Since Family Math is activity-rich, it is necessary to acquire a variety of props and set aside adequate time for planning. Material lists are, however, laid out for the instructor so there is no guesswork.
  • Family Math presents a change in pedagogy, and it can be difficult for teachers to change the way they have taught math.
  • Does not explicitly prepare students for testing, although it does prepare them to become active problem solvers.

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