The lack of involvement in childrens mathematical development

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The topic of parental involvement into their child's mathematical development was chosen for many reasons; the 2009 PISA results (department for education, 2010) show that Wales is behind the rest of the UK in all of the areas tested. Mathematics is my favourite subject and I wanted to know why people find it so difficult. I, also, wanted to know if an adult's perception of mathematics is passed on through to their children; does their perception of mathematics have an affect on their child's development in the subject? Will a parent who loves maths have children who share their enthusiasm for the subject? Or will a parent who has a dislike for maths have children who develop a similar dislike for the subject? This is an action research project to find out about the affects of parental involvement into their children's mathematical development whilst in primary school. Is there a positive or negative effect from parental involvement upon their child's mathematical development? The obvious answer to this question is that of course parental involvement has a positive affect upon their child's educational development. However, the topic is not that black and white, it is not as simple as being either positive or negative. Although, this is not the ideal world, where all parents are fully committed and involved in all aspects of their child's education, there are a number of factors and barriers between parents supporting their child's mathematical development. My hypothesis for this investigation is that parental involvement into their child's mathematical development will show to have a positive effect and a lack of involvement will show to have no negative effects in their mathematical development. In this investigation, it is necessary to take into account that parents may not have a choice in being involved or not. In todays society there are many reasons why parents cannot get involved in their child's education. This paper will look at those factors and barriers that prevent parents from helping their children and the affects that they have on the child's development. The investigation will look at the mathematic results from the year two and six classes to see if there is any correlation between parental involvement and their child's mathematical development. For the purpose of this investigation, it is necessary, for the purpose of the reader, to define who comes under the term of 'parents' and 'parental involvement'.

'Parents are involved, as are other carers, older brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, grandparents, friends of the family and many others.' (Page 1)

Stern (2003) has explained that parents are not the only other people that can be involved within a child's education. When speaking about parents in this paper the term will encompass not just the mother and father but, also, any grandparents, uncles, aunts, older siblings and other older family members. This is because in some families parents are unable, for one reason or another, to be involved in their child's education and so other members of the family will take on that role. This action research paper will consist of a literature review of the current and past literature in parental involvement in their child's mathematics, the ethical considerations needed for this investigation, a look into the research methods used to gain the necessary information, what the results of the investigation are, an analysis and discussion of the results found and a conclusion consisting of what the findings are and implications for future research into this area.

Literature Review

Surprisingly, there is not much research on the parental involvement into their child's mathematical development. However, there is a substantial amount of research into parental involvement into their child's education in general and there is a substantial amount of research about a child's mathematical development. This literature review will look at parental involvement firstly, followed by mathematical development, and lastly any literature about parental involvement in their child's mathematical development.

Desforges (2003) suggests that parental involvement has a greater influence upon their child's education than the quality of the school itself. This is a large claim to make; there are many factors that affect student achievement. For a student to achieve anything they need to have the ability/potential to be able to reach high standards and they need a good school that will challenge and push a student into fulfilling their potential. Theoretically, a student could have perfect parents but not achieve because they lack the ability. Equally a student could have a fantastic school and still fail to achieve because of a lack of ability. Although, it is easy to see why Desforges (2003) makes this claim, for any student to achieve they need a good foundation of support from home. However, another way to look at Desforges (2003) suggestion is that parental involvement can work both ways, it can help a child with their education or it could potentially hold them back. Svenson (2011) explains that too much parenting can have a negative impact, when parents start behaving like teachers, a child's experiences of home become less effective. Svenson (2011) identified that the strength of school and home is the differences between them, they offer different experiences to each other and when parents start becoming too involved they take away their child's natural experiences of home life. Too much involvement can have a negative impact, education is about allowing children a degree of freedom, with which, they learn and discover with the help of a teacher and parents to facilitate their learning. Forcing a child to do something will only succeed in pushing that child away.

The Government identified barriers to parental involvement, in their child's education, in the government white paper 'Higher standards, Better schools for all' (2005)

Reynolds (2005) explains that policy-makers jumped at the chance to get parents more involved with the 'Higher standards, Better schools for all' (2005) paper, seeing as the results of parental involvement showing a positive effect. She does counter this, though, by saying that if the initiatives prove effective, then it will only further increase the gap between children whose parents are involved compared to the children whose parents are not involved. This is no reason to not implement the initiatives, if any children can be helped then they should. If they prove effective, this will help teachers identify more clearly whose parents are less involved and teachers can attempt different methods to help that child. This would not be as effective as the parents themselves being involved but it would help some children get a better education.

Why would a mother or father not want to be involved in their child's education? Some believe that it is up to the school to educate their child and they have no bearing on their education. As Reynolds (2005) points out the law, in regards to parental involvement, according to the 1944 Education Act 'it is a parent's duty to ensure their child receives an education either at home or school.' The important word there is 'either', the law does not state that a child needs to be educated in both places, nor does it state that the mother or father need to be involved in their education. It states that it is a 'parent's duty to ensure that their child receives an education', if the child is receiving an education at school then they do not need to do anything more. Some parents who don't get involved feel as though they cannot help their child. Hornby (2000) identifies some key factors that prevent or make it difficult for parents to be involved and one of these factors is stated to be the parental attitude. Hornby (2000) explains that it is not the lack of interest from a parent but a lack of knowledge; if the parents don't know what is expected of them or how to help their child then what can they do? With this knowledge it is easier to understand how parents can feel as though they cannot help. For other parents, they may not have a choice to be involved with their child's education. Hornby (2000), also, identified work as a factor that makes it difficult for parents. Hornby (2000) explains that the majority of mothers work, and that there are a substantial number of families that end in divorces, if the mother and father are spending most of their time working it makes it difficult for them to be more involved. However, as Stern (2003) pointed out earlier, most of a child's family is involved in their education and with the increase of people involved it takes some pressure off of the mother and father to be involved.

The way in which mathematics is now taught is different to the way.

Research stating maths is taught differently now compared to 20 years ago.

One teacher at the school believes that because maths is taught differently now they believe that they are teaching their child the 'wrong way' (Appendix 3D). Parents who feel they are wrong are less likely to want to help out of fear of being wrong again.

Methodology/Research Methods



Ethical Considerations

As this investigation looks into parental involvement and a child's mathematical development, it is necessary to speak with some parents, teachers and students it is necessary to make sure that they know and understand the questions that they are being asked and that their anonymity is kept. To ensure this I have gained permission through a consent form from the assistant head teacher at the school to carry out my investigation (Appendix 1). Also, I spoke with each teacher before undergoing any work in that classroom or with the students. When questionnaires were sent home for parents, there were letters accompanying each one explaining the nature of the questionnaires and where to contact me if they had any questions. All parents and students will remain anonymous.

Findings and Results

Analysis and Discussion