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Parents learn how to tackle their students' math problems

By Carolina Astrain
Dec. 2, 2012 at 6:02 a.m.

Bryan transplant Kenya Austin with her daughters, Kennedy Austin, 8, and Ansley Austin, 4, at a math strategies presentation at Dudley Magnet Elementary School on Nov. 28.

A bright red dot sped over the projection screen as parent Kenya Austin worked through deconstructing a math problem with her two daughters.

The Bryan transplants were at an evening math strategies session last week at Dudley Magnet Elementary School.

At the helm, math facilitator Deborah Wells walked parents through some basic vocabulary terms teachers at Dudley have been using with their students.

Compose, number line, digitize, partial sums - terms most of these parents haven't heard in years.

"You have to find a friendly number," Wells reminded the parents. "It makes tackling complex numbers easier."

The facilitator held two math sessions last week for the parents on the heels of the end-of-course examination dates.

"Teaching parents about math looks different at many of the VISD schools," Wells wrote in an email message. "For the past six years, Dudley has focused on the different ways we teach thinking about computation so parents can support their child at home."

A diverse mix of parents from varied economic backgrounds attended the tutoring session.

The session started around 6 p.m. and went well into the second hour.

"I just want to be involved in anything they want to offer," said Austin. "They been doing something totally different from our old ISD."

The mathematician led parents and students through the order of operations and familiar acronyms used for memorization.

Some examples Wells used of how young students may interpret math differently included these two questions and answers:

Q: What's the difference between nine and four?

A: The nine is curvy, but the four is all straight lines.

Q: What is half of eight?

A: Three, because is eight is two threes put together.

"Children want to please and give the 'right answer' - they want to make sense of their world," Wells wrote. "If we don't develop deep understanding of numeracy and problem-solving, children will just wait for us to tell them what to do and how to attack problems."

This year, Dudley Elementary was one out of the five elementary schools that met the Texas Education Agency's Adequate Yearly Progress requirements this year for math, boasted Wells at the late-night session.

The TEA reported 56 percent of Texas campuses failed to meet AYP standards, based on results from standardized tests.

"Here, students are able to look at numbers and invent their own strategies," Wells said. "Student success on the Math TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) is increasing at Dudley."



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