Everyday Maths resources

Supporting teachers’ engagement with parents around children’s mathematics learning.

The challenge

Most parents want their children to do well in mathematics, but may be unsure about how to support this. Parents may not feel confident about their own mathematical expertise, or about their familiarity with the methods used in the current curriculum. These issues can cause tension when parents try to support their children’s mathematics learning.

Research impact - Families doing maths together

Based on the Everyday Maths project research, we have developed free online resources (funded by a Bristol ESRC IAA award) to help schools and other organisations work with parents of primary school children.

In the Everyday Maths project we worked with parents of primary school children in Years 3 and 4 in four diverse Bristol schools, running a series of 3-4 workshops in each school. These workshops helped parents recognise and discuss the kinds of mathematics that occurred in everyday activity. The workshops started with parents’ experiences of everyday family activity, and sought to make explicit the kinds of mathematics used in that activity. The first workshop focused on discussing these activities; the second on “finding the maths” in family activity; and the third on mathematical conversations that parents could have with their children during/about the activity. In our research, the fourth workshop enabled parents to discuss what they thought of our approach.

As the workshops progressed, parents became more confident in prompting, recognising and referring to mathematical ideas in conversation with their children. These might include ideas such as: risk and probability; shape and symmetry; cause and effect; classification; size and proportion, priority and preference; and planning and prerequisites, to name just a few. However, it was important for parents not to start out with an agenda of which topics they wanted to discuss with their children, but to encourage children to explore the world around them and ask questions. As one parent involved in the project stated:

"I've never been interested in Maths. It frightened me. I was Maths Phobic. But through this project, I learned that Everyday Maths is not a frightening concept. It's a fact of life.

I learned that maths is going to the shops and cooking at home. Maths is going to the park, and playing in the sand pit. Maths is going to the market, or driving to school. Maths is swimming and at the sports centre, even at the mosque or church. Maths is shape, pattern and symmetry, it's playing board games and music. It's everything and everywhere and most certainly, everyday.

I found my personal relationship with maths revitalised and energised. As a parent I want to share this concept with other parents. Sadly my 18 year old daughter did not benefit from my Maths Phobic attitude and I feel sorry for her. But I'm pleased to say that my four year old is already reaping the benefits of my Everyday Maths confidence. I feel empowered, and energised, and I hope that other parents will engage and be maths liberated like me."

Our approach is not curriculum-focused, but can act as a complement to the mathematics that children are doing in school. Our Everyday Maths resources include leaflets with constructive ideas for parents, and a Workshop Facilitators Guide to support teachers and others who would like to run workshops themselves.

Underpinning research

The Everyday Maths project (funded by the Nuffield Foundation) explored and supported parental involvement in children’s mathematics learning, taking a parent-centred approach. The project was based in primary schools in Bristol, and involved an investigation of parents’ motivations and attitudes towards their children’s mathematics learning, and of their own uses of mathematics, followed by workshops designed to empower parents to reflect upon and share their social and cultural funds of knowledge relating to mathematics with their children.

Previous research has shown that family life can be a valuable source of mathematical knowledge and learning, but one that is frequently undervalued and under-recognised as such by both teachers and parents. Traditional models of parental involvement usually start with what the child is learning at school. However our research suggests that this can present a potential barrier to parents’ participation in home maths talk, with parents feeling the pressure of ‘having to end up at a right answer’ and being unsure of whether a particular phenomenon could clearly be defined as mathematics, as opposed to science, geography, economics and so on. These doubts have prevented many parents from starting a conversation around maths. Instead, our approach positions parents as experts by starting with family activity. Parents do not need extensive mathematical knowledge to support their children’s learning. Discussion of interesting questions, and talk about ways that mathematics can help us with everyday activity, can be as useful as knowing a correct procedure or answer.

Key facts

  • There is great potential in children’s home and family life for activity to support children’s mathematics learning. Parents and the wider family should be encouraged to explore the mathematics that is involved in family life and activity, and to share this mathematics with children.
  • Schools should be encouraged to engage with parents in ways that value parents’ existing knowledge and skills. Only emphasising classroom mathematics content and methods can discourage parents from supporting children’s mathematics learning.
  • Parents do not need extensive mathematical knowledge to support their children’s learning. Discussion of interesting questions, and talk about ways that mathematics can help us with everyday activity, can be as useful as knowing a correct procedure or answer.
  • Everyday Maths is about exploring the world and asking open, exploratory questions, not about knowing the answers. Everyday activity and embodied experience is core to Everyday Maths, rather than abstract concepts.



Dr Jo Rose

External researcher

Professor Tim Jay

Date published

March 2020

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