Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Math
Location: http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/guide/math/


Curriculum Details for
Family Math


Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
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
lawrencehallofscience.org/equals/aboutfm.html

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Program Description

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

Strengths
  • 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.
Challenges
  • 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.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

Two practitioners were interviewed for this review of Family Math.  One practitioner has been a teacher for nine years, specifically teaching math to English language learners and Latino families.  She has been teaching Family Math for two years to both families and students, generally 7-10 years old.  The second practitioner has been a middle school teacher for 32 years and started using Family Math 12 years ago.  Since then, she has started training others to use Family Math in afterschool programs.  She primarily teaches grades 1 – 6, with a large Latino population.

Logistics

Training
  • Two full-day training sessions, including overview of rationale and a chance to try out activities themselves.
  • Practitioners felt like they needed more training.  A follow-up training was offered a few weeks later, and after that, were made available over email.
Set-up/preparation
  • Some activities require access to resources such as water, space, etc., as well as other materials.  This often requires additional preparation time.
  • In addition to the afterschool setting, Family Math can be used with families and students at family centers, libraries, churches, festivals, and community centers.  Can tailor and adjust the curriculum to the audience and setting. 
  • Format varies, one practitioner allowed for an hour and a half for each session, for four  consecutive sessions over a period of several weeks. The other used it nearly every day in afterschool, for periods of about 30-40 minutes.
  • Practitioners used Family Math with groups as large as 20 – 30 people (with two teachers), or smaller groups. Because of the game/station format, it is easy to accommodate small or large groups.

Student Engagement

  • Parents enjoy it, has seen many repeat families coming back for more.
  • Students report becoming more comfortable with math as a result of using Family Math.
  • Students, ages 9-16, who showed up at drop-in center stay for an hour or more to work with Family Math
  • Hands-on and game aspects are liked the most by students.
  • Non-stressful, game-like environment for learning math. 
  • Instead of worksheets and problems, the activities are engaging and game- and puzzle-like.  Several activities include having to make things and doing activities that include cutting, drawing, and putting things together.
  • Often times, students were given games to play at home with their families. Parents loved this, as all age levels were able to participate.

Content

Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Curriculum is intentionally open-ended and is accessible and adaptable to any age level and ability level. 
  • Flexible. For example, you can tailor one activity to many different abilities.
  • Variety in types of activities and types of math.
General skills taught
  • Students are taught to question, formalize opinions and investigate problems.
  • Communication skills and how to share ideas with others.
  • Taking turns and working as part of a group. 
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Uses visuals and manipulatives; works to touch on as many learning styles as possible.
  • Family Math uses materials that are familiar to most people.
  • Basic Family Math book is available in Spanish, but not all books are.
  • Family Math is culturally sensitive, and can be easily and effectively brought into the community and be used in places where families and students are such as churches, etc.
  • Can be hard for students who prefer to work alone.

Strengths and Challenges

Strengths
  • Portable, easy to take to different locations.
  • Engaging, short activities.
  • Accessible to a wide variety of learning styles.
  • 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.
Challenges
  • Family Math presents a change in pedagogy; 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 problem solvers.
  • Instructor must obtain materials and supplies for activities.

Content Expert Review

Content Expert Reviewer

Janet Vignaly
Janet Vignaly is a licensed mathematics teacher who taught high school algebra and geometry in Boston, Massachusetts and also worked with students in afterschool settings for extra help in math. Previously, she worked for four years in Nairobi, Kenya, as a primary school science and math teacher. There she also helped develop literacy and feeding programs for children in impoverished settings. She received her Masters degree from the Teacher Education Program with a focus on mathematics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Content

  • This reviewer focused on three components of the Family Math series: Family Math, Family Math II: Achieving Success in Mathematics, and The Middle School Years.
  • Topics usually taught in an abstract manner, such as factors, line segments, estimation, functions, and algebraic equations are used as part of games.
  • Such topics are introduced as faster ways to solve puzzles or discovered through exploration with manipulatives.    
  • Ideas in the books are varied in content and enjoyable to read.

Skills

Academic Skills
  • Algebraic and abstract thinking
  • Number sense, including fractions, positive and negative integers, multiples and factors
  • Geometry, including lines and line segments
  • Probability, specifically within the context of game playing strategy.
Study Skills
  • Using charts to organize data
  • Different ways of learning and organizing
Non-Academic Skills
  • Determination
  • Creativity
  • Self-reliance
  • Understanding math as it applies beyond a strict classroom setting

Alignment to Standards

Curriculum addresses National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards. Aligns well with most state standards and covers the expectations of the frameworks more deeply than most activity-based curriculum.

Assessment

No formal assessments incorporated into the curriculum, although general suggestions for assessment, including performance assessment and portfolios, are included.

Structure

  • Family Math is adequately structured but is open to creativity.
  • Teachers may choose which topics and activities to run and in what order, according to students’ needs.
  • Content is entirely predefined by the books. Teachers do not need to add their own content, although they may tailor some of the ideas in the books to the content they wish to teach.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

Adaptability
  • Curriculum is adaptable to students with different skill levels. For example, teachers can give groups more or less help or feedback, depending on skill level.
  • May be difficult to adapt to behavioral issues, if the response is to isolate students who are struggling work with others, as it would be difficult for a child to work on the activities on his or her own.
  • A teacher could also use an activity as a challenge to engage a student mentally and help him or her cool off after an incident.
  • Because the activities are so engaging, the teacher may be freed up to deal with behavioral issues as they occur.
Developmental level
  • All three curriculum reviewed are geared toward a specific age range, with additional age guidelines given for each activity.
  • Content is well-tailored to the developmental needs of the age group, as activities are given extension questions for more challenge or accessibility. Several of the more challenging activities remind the teacher that the student may not be ready for the topic, and it can be dropped and revisited later.
Learning Styles Addressed
  • Spatial learning; e.g. students measure the lengths of their shadows at different times.
  • Interpersonal learning: activities require students work with each other; e.g. students see immediate feedback on their guesses in various games, and are encouraged to discuss strategies.
  • Artistic learning; e.g. students plan and measure framing a picture, including colors and shapes.
Multiculturalism
  • Some activities, such as Mayan Mathematics, explore the mathematics of other cultures.
  • Throughout the books there are pictures of Black, Latino and white families, physically abled and disabled people, and characters with names from different ethnic backgrounds.
  • Some activities require students to translate words into algebraic expressions, which can be difficult especially for students whose primary language is not English.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • After instructions are introduced by the teacher, lessons are entirely student-directed.
  • Curriculum offers a variety of ways for students to engage in the topics, allowing them to gain familiarity and experience without having to drill or perform hundreds of problems.
  • 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.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • 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.
  • Answers are not given, so instructors need to be well-versed in the activities.

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