Math night shows parents how students learn

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Ranchvale parent Renee Corcoran learns how her students are learning fractions using pattern blocks in Doris Ford’s classroom Thursday during Ranchvale Parent Math Night.

Liliana Castillo

“Twenty-five minutes is not enough,” parent Rachel Earle said, studying what is called “division using chunking” on the dry erase board in teacher Jennifer Inge’s fifth grade classroom at Ranchvale Elementary School.

By the look on Inge’s face, she has thought the same thing while teaching her students the new math method.

On Thursday night, Inge and other Ranchvale teachers spent the evening teaching about 100 of their students’ parents the methods they use to teach their students math each day.

The school teaches math using what is called number literacy. Number literacy provides students with logic and reasoning to become numerically literate.

Teachers have found that students don’t learn the same way they used to and have adjusted by teaching simple math concepts such as long division and percentages in new ways. Parents were having trouble helping their children with their homework because they learned how to do long division in a different way than their children.

It was an eye-opening experience for Earle and other parents.

“This was perfect,” Earle said. “Some things I saw on her homework, I didn’t know of. It’s difficult to help at home when I don’t even know what she’s doing.”

Earle, a single parent, said that making the event a combination lesson and dinner night made it easier for her to be able to attend.

“I can’t explain it if I don’t recognize it,” she said. “And it not only helped for now, third grade, but I also got prepared for fourth and fifth grade.”

Inge said traditional ways of learning math concepts works for about 20 percent of her students.

“Some of our minds see things in chunks and some see them in details,” Inge said. “Either way, you have to make it fun. We live in a society in which kids want to be entertained.”

Parent Renee Corcoran said the way her students are doing math is so different than how she learned.

“This helped me so I can help them with their homework,” she said.

Principal Suzanne Brockmeier said the event was intended to show parents the hands-on math tools teachers use with students.

“We have a lot of new families who aren’t sure of how we’re teaching math,” Brockmeier said. “This allows us to answer questions.”

Ranchvale’s population is made up largely of children of active duty families from Cannon Air Force Base.

Brockmeier said the school has hosted a similar event centered on reading and could host another about math if there is more interest.