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Addressing parent concerns about reform mathematics

Many parents express skepticism about reform-oriented teaching in math, especially when beginning teachers introduce it. This list of suggestions will help mentors and new teachers plan responses to common concerns and locate resources to address them.

1. Brainstorm potential criticisms parents may raise. If reform teaching is common in the district, the mentor teacher will probably have heard many of these.

Potential responses:

  • Worry about whether children will learn “the basics”
  • Worry about whether children will pass the MEAP
  • Concern that manipulatives or calculators “baby” the children
  • Concern that mathematics looks different from when they were children

2. Develop responses to each of these concerns and rehearse them.

  • It may be helpful to talk to your principal or other teachers about how they address these concerns.
  • If you are using a reform-based curriculum, the publishers may have advice about communicating with parents.
  • Review your state-sponsored curriculum in mathematics to inform your responses.

3. Make a plan to educate parents before concerns arise.

  • Plan a curriculum night where you review the state's expectations for mathematics with parents. Emphasize how much children are expected to know beyond the four basic algorithms.

Show parents sample questions from the MEAP during conferences or at curriculum night. The MEAP analysis tool will help you demonstrate the breadth of knowledge and skills children need to be successful.

Plan a math night (or use part of a curriculum night) for parents to participate in activities involving manipulatives and calculators. Plan activities that help parents to see how these materials support deeper learning.