What is Family Math?
“I have learned that math is everywhere. Math can be fun. It has a wider context than I realized – it’s not just numbers. I never thought that patterns had anything to do with math. I think we overlook simple ideas in our daily lives that can be used to implement different math concepts. We can sing songs with math ideas and read math-related books. This program is a wonderful start to mathematics.”
After you take part in Family Math programs or watch a Family Math video you will find yourself saying “Math is everywhere!” And you’ll probably find yourself looking at math in a whole new way.
The Family Math Project has been operating for over a decade. It supports families who would like their children to experience success in math. The original research-based materials were developed at the University of Western Ontario between 1999 and 2004. A team, headed by Dr. Barry Onslow, built on the earlier Family Math successes realized at Berkeley in the 1980s and 1990s.
The goal of family math is to help parents gain confidence and understanding of mathematics. By empowering parents, families begin to enjoy mathematics in a positive way. Math becomes more understandable and fun. Children actively engage in Math activities and find success while working with their parents.
Enjoyment is an integral part of learning with Family Math. A participant who feels comfortable and secure while “doing math” will take away a maximum amount of learning.
Family Math makes connections to real life and moves math learning beyond the the realm of “school”. This makes learning math more real and more fun.
Learning mathematics is a problem solving process. Problem solving results in people being able to focus on, and enjoy working through, a problem rather than just getting to the end. Knowing the process is just as important as knowing the answer.
Given early support at home and in their community, children have an opportunity to maintain a positive attitude toward math throughout their school years. Research shows that students do better at school when their parents are involved in their education. A positive attitude toward math means that doors remain open and options increase.
Family Math is a beginning – a step toward lifelong math learning.
Family Math sessions educate parents to work and play with their children so as to develop positive attitudes toward mathematics. Parents and their children attend the Family Math sessions together, and all are actively involved in doing mathematics. Trained Leaders present the sessions, introducing games and activities that reinforce skills and facilitate the understanding of math concepts, as well as foster an enjoyment for mathematics.
“My 5 year old son and I just finished 6 weeks of family math in Listowel. I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much we enjoyed it. The activities were perfect for his age and they aligned perfectly with the inquiry based learning program of FDK (Full Day Kindergarten). He especially enjoyed the music and stories. I liked that he learned to estimate with a bit of accuracy. Thanks for designing and implementing such a valuable program.”
The videos and their associated parent workshops focus on aspects of Number Sense and Numeration, Geometry, Measurement, Patterning, and Data Management and Probability that are typically part of daily family activities. The mathematical concepts are highlighted throughout the videos (through voice-over and on-screen print) and in guided discussions for parents who attend the workshop.
In late 2017, the time came for the Family Math Canada Foundation to cease operating. Funding was no longer available and the energy of the Board of Directors was dwindling.
After 19 years of Family Math (either as Esso Family Math or Family Math Canada) the programs are still widely used. There has been an impact on many families. Parents and children have learned that math is everywhere and it can be fun. Parents have been encouraged to support their child’s math learning No doubt Family Math has had a very positive impact.
The authors and Board of Directors of Family Math Canada would be pleased if someone reading this would like to take up this work and move forward in a renewed direction. Please email the former Chair of the Board at if you are interested in extending this work.
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