Parents helping their children with mathematics
Using case study methodology, and an interpretative paradigm, this study illuminates the hitherto unresearched hidden help that parents give their children with maths. It uses data collected from two phases, the first being three case studies of parents who approached the author as a private tutor, the second being five case studies of parents participating in a 'Maths for Parents' course designed by the author.
It establishes that without prompting, parents do help their children with maths. It identifies seven new aspects of why and how parents help with maths: rescuing their children from the negative effects of school maths (a 'saviour attitude'), influenced by parents' past bad experiences ofmaths; being a source of maths knowledge for their children; keeping a watchful eye on whether the curriculum is being covered; trying to keep their child one step ahead of school lessons; acting as a bridge between home and school; concern for their child's welfare rather than academic achievement; and responding to their child's request. Parents who do not have an up-to-date understanding of pedagogy and school/curriculum structures have difficulties in supporting their children's maths, irrespective of their social class or mathematical ability. The study concludes that the practice is more widespread than has previously been acknowledged. It urgently needs to be recognised, and parents' perspectives understood by policy makers and schools, to limit the damage that can arise through ignorance of its extent. Although some parents may continue to work independently, as their agendas are mutually exclusive
from those of school, initiatives to work in partnership with parents can be successful in bringing greater understanding of the curriculum, enriching parents' understanding of school maths and their relationships with their children and school, and resolving the conflicts that can hamper a child's