Episode 151: Partnering with Parents – An Interview with Hilary Kreisberg & Matthew Beyranevand

Oct 18, 2021 | Podcast | 0 comments



We’re bringing back two wonderful and hilariously entertaining educators who are passionate about helping parents navigate math education. Hilary Kresiberg and Matthew Beyranevand have co authored a new book for teachers called Partnering With Parents

Stick around and learn how to help parents deal with math anxiety so they can assist their children at home; how to communicate with your parents when starting the school year; how we can communicate our strategies and methodologies with parents so they feel confident; and, how we can help parents with the varying levels of homework students get from year to year or even teacher to teacher.

You’ll Learn

  • How to help parents deal with math anxiety so they can assist their children at home;
  • How to communicate with your parents when starting the school year; 
  • How we can communicate our strategies and methodologies with parents so they feel confident; and, 
  • How we can help parents with the varying levels of homework students get from year to year or even teacher to teacher.
Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Hillary: And so, in the book, we lay out Parents Four Core Wants, that's what we've kind of called it. And we took that from the first book of what the parents had told us they needed. And their four core wants, they want to feel helpful. They want to feel intelligent. They want to feel confident and familiar. And so, if teachers can help parents feel those four things, then the anxieties will go down and crosstalk.

Jon Orr: We're bringing back wonderful and hilariously entertaining educators who are passionate about helping parents and teachers navigate math education, Hillary Kreisberg and Matthew Beyranevand have co-authored a new book for teachers called Partnering with Parents.
Stick around and learn how to help parents deal with math anxieties so they can assist their children at home. How to communicate with your parents when starting the school year and building a routine and how we can communicate our strategies and math pedagogy with parents, so that they feel confident with the math curriculum their children are learning. Let's do this.

Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are from makemathmoments.com and together

Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide, who want to build and deliver problem-based math lessons that spark curiosity,

Jon Orr: Fuel sense-making,

Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. Math Moment Makers, are you ready to dive into another conversation with our good friends and colleagues, Hillary and Matthew? I sure hope you are because they are coming back with humor, as you would expect, but also a bunch of amazing math knowledge bombs for you to take home with you and, actually, send home with your students so that they can build a relationship with the parents.

Jon Orr: The amount of info jam packed into this episode is amazing. They always bring the goods for you so that you are equipped and prepared to tackle and help the parents that you, I guess not tackle, right Kyle? I'm not tackling anyone.

Kyle Pearce: You want to keep hands off, hands off.

Jon Orr: Yeah. Well, help the parents that you're going to be working with on a regular basis. That's a key idea, here, that Hillary and Matthew share being, "Hey, communication is so important." So, we're going to jump right in. Let's go to it. Here we go with Hillary and Matthew.

Kyle Pearce: Hey there, Hillary and Matthew, thanks for joining us again on the Making Math Moments that Matter podcast, we just spent a little bit of time catching up. I know it seems like just yesterday that we were speaking with you last on the podcast, but you let us know that actually it's our anniversary in a day, right? That's pretty awesome. How's things going in your world there, Matthew? How's things on your end?

Matthew: I got to tell you things are great. We are so excited to be back. This is our favorite podcast to listen to and to be on. You have some amazing guests and we are honored and humbled to be here today to talk to you about the role of parents in math education.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. We are also excited. Hillary, how have you been these last two years? It's been since we've chatted.

Hillary: I know. Oh, my gosh. I'm good. We've been so busy. Adding parents to the equation took off more than we would expect. We ended up getting on to CBS Boston News and we did a live interview on NPR. And we made a free book study guide to go with the book that educators are using to host parent clubs, book clubs. The book won two awards from inaudible. It won one of the best parent books of all time and one of the best math books of all time. So, it's just been a wild two years for us. And I've been working on a new curriculum resource for K to five teachers that comes out this month, actually. So, it's just been wild.

Jon Orr: You guys are busy.

Hillary: And I had a kid.

Jon Orr: That's so fantastic.

Matthew: And throw a kid in there to boot.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Well, I mean, that was just an aside.

Hillary: A side project.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Exactly. There was just a few minutes each day. You were like, "I need to fill up this time." But I know that both of you had let us know many times that the reason you were on TV and have had such success is because you were chatting with Jon and I a couple of years ago. So, you're welcome. No, I'm just kidding.
Remind the listeners, here, just for those who are listening, both Hillary and Matthew have shared their math moments and all of these wonderful things on our prior episodes. So, make sure you go check those ones out to take a deep dive. But for those who may not recall, Matthew, remind our friends where are you coming from? And what is your current role in education before we dig in here?

Matthew: Absolutely. So, I come from Massachusetts, I live outside of the Boston area and my primary role is a district math coordinator, K to 12. And in addition to that, I serve as an adjunct professor of math at the university of Massachusetts at Lowell. And I serve as a visiting associate professor in education at Fitchburg state university. And my mission, my professional mission is to find a way that we can take the mathematics and make it fun and joyful while building conceptual understanding because within the stem field, the science, the technology and the engineering kids love to be in those classes and to learn. And then, you have us, the ugly stepsister, which is the mathematics and I am working to change that.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Awesome stuff. We definitely are going to chat about that and more as we kind of dive into your work and also the work of Adding Parents to the Equation and your new book. But before we get into that, Hillary-

Hillary: How to I follow off that?

Jon Orr: Yeah. I don't know if you can. crosstalk

Matthew: Going to be honest, I'm pretty important. So, it's hard to follow that.

Hillary: That's why I crosstalk with you, there we go.

Jon Orr: I love it. I always love chatting with you two. So, let our listeners know your role and a little bit more.

Hillary: So, I'm a former elementary educator turned middle K to five math coach, and now I am the director of the center for mathematics achievement at Lesley university, which is also located in Massachusets.

Kyle Pearce: Fantastic. Fantastic. That is awesome. And as you had mentioned, hands are now full because when there is a child among us, my goodness, you've got your hands full. But you know what, friends? We want to dive right in. I know in our last episode, we chatted all about Adding Parents to the Equation. You both referenced what an impact that that has had on so many different families. I'm wondering, before we dive into this new project that you've been on, why do you feel that there was a need to write a second book in order to help parents with mathematics in their households? Where did the first book leave off? And what does this new book, this new project sort of do to kind of fill any of those gaps that still remained?

Matthew: Great question. So, this first book that we did, that Adding Parents to the Equation, was a book that was meant for parents. So, it's a resource guide for parents that are saying, "Hey, I want to help support my kids in math, but I don't know what I'm doing. I don't understand this terminology. I don't know what supports I should be doing."
On the other hand, this book is for the educators. This was actually something that Corwin press, which is our new publisher, came to us and said, "We loved your book that you did for parents. What about doing one for educators to share with them the best practices about developing and nurturing those relationships with parents?" And we were like, "Yeah. Sounds great. Let's dive into it."

Hillary: Yeah. And this one is tried and true for school leaders and teachers. So, all kinds of educators. And we just realize, after writing the book for parents, that that book wasn't enough to solve the problem that really exists, which is that parents need to be informed and educated about the way we teach math today.
And so, we needed teachers and school leaders to get involved too. I mean, if you think about it, students have been positioned, inadvertently of course, as chiefly responsible for parents' education about math instruction, but it's the school's job to do this. So, we have to figure out how to fix that.

Jon Orr: Awesome. It seems like a perfect opportunity because I think when we last chatted about the Adding Parents to the Equation, I think we did chat about how teachers can use those ideas, but it makes so much more sense to have a full dedicated book to teachers and saying like, "Hey, look it. I know that your parents definitely want to help out here. We know that they're asking you to provide them supports and provide them resources because I know that so many parents even ask us that when I'm talking with fellow friend, parents are like "My kid's doing this, how do I help them?'" And then, thinking as a teacher, "How do I help parents do that?" Makes so much sense.
So, let's dive into it a little bit more here right now. What can teachers do to help with parents? Let's say anxiety and prevent them from just giving up. Because I know that I hear that a lot. It's like, "I want to help my kid do this." But it's like, 'Oh. All this new stuff." Or, "It doesn't look like the same way as I had done it." How does a teacher help a parent tackle all that?

Hillary: Yeah. Well, I think the most important thing is to communicate and to do it effectively, right? You can't over communicate when you've communicated properly. And truthfully, from the over 200 parents that we interviewed across both the states and Canada parents say there's just never too much communication. They want to be in the know.
And so, in the book we lay out Parents Four Core Wants. That's what we've kind of called it. And we took that from the first book of what the parents had told us they needed. And their four core wants, they want to feel helpful. They want to feel intelligent. They want to feel confident and familiar. And so, if teachers can help parents feel those four things, then the anxieties will go down. And the way to do that is to communicate, but to do it properly. And so, this book really outlines how to communicate with parents in an effective way.

Jon Orr: I love it. I love it. I want to dig in here on the communication piece because I think communication is so key. I think every district, every administrator promotes building that homeschool relationship, but sometimes I feel like educators, I was there and I did a lot of experimenting with how often I should be communicating? How I should be communicating? What does it look like? Sound like? Am I adding on two hours of phone calls every single night?
I'll direct this one to Matthew, do you have any ideas or maybe starting points for maybe educators who, I'll be honest and say that I think sometimes educators get anxious. We were talking about anxiety, parents having anxiety with the mathematics. But I think sometimes educators get anxious when they think about this idea of trying to communicate with home, because there're stories we tell ourselves, right? "Do the parents think I'm a good teacher? Maybe they don't like how I'm teaching it or that they're old school or they're new school and I'm too old school." Whatever is going on in their minds.
How does an educator actually build that opportunity to communicate? It's easy for us to say, "Hey, well just give a call home." But are there any sort of get started tips that you might have for those who are listening, thinking like, "How do I do this?"

Matthew: Absolutely. Let me just run some of them through you. Here we go. Number one, let's start off with a beginning of the year survey, too. Like we do with assessing our students at the beginning of the year, start by serving our parents to find out what modes of communication works best? What are your feelings about math? What struggles do you and or your child have? That's number one.
Number two, make sure the correspondence that you've sent to your parents is done in a way that is effective and that they can actually understand it. Some of the analysis we did is that much of the writing that teachers do to parents are well above their ability to comprehend it at a reading level that's appropriate for them, especially those parents that have English as a second language.
Number three, why don't we do more regular communication like we do in a general sense where we give weekly updates or weekly newsletters sharing information about what we're studying and what are resources that you can use if you're interested in helping your kids out.
And then, number four, setting up math specific nights, such as family math nights, parent math nights, parent book clubs. Interacting with parents in ways that promote good positive math discussions. And in this book, we detail all of these things I just shared. Plus giving you examples and things that you can reproduce to be able to share with parents, because ultimately, we wrote this book because we saw there was an issue and we said, "We can help fix it." Which is, ultimately, what we're all trying to do because we're all in this together.

Hillary: And we have three full chapters dedicated to this and there's a digital companion that goes with the books. So, you get access to editable surveys, editable letters that you can send home. And we have examples at various grade levels of exactly how we would communicate based on those four parents core wants. So, it all is back to addressing parents and feeling helpful and intelligent and confident and familiar.

Jon Orr: Yeah. That's super awesome that you're providing those specific supports to teachers.

Matthew: So, if I could jump in for a second, I need to turn the tables. I need to turn the tables and ask you fine folks a question.

Hillary: Oh, my God.

Jon Orr: Love it.

Hillary: crosstalk.

Kyle Pearce: This is the Matthew podcast.

Matthew: I used to have one in fact, and then it kind of went away. But nonetheless, what are the two most pressing issues in needs within math education right now? That's my question for you two.

Kyle Pearce: I would say one is perception. That, to me, it stems and kind of builds out. A lot of the challenges we have is just a perception of what math is, whether it's for everyone, if it's only for certain people and those types of things, Jon, what else do you think suppressing concern?

Jon Orr: I think, particularly, this is what we talk about here on the podcast often, is the way the math can be taught or should be taught. And we talk about this so much. And I think a lot of us do about the pedagogical structure of how we structure what a math lesson looks like. And the idea of like, "I taught for so long on, 'Hey, homework tickets taken up, then we introduce a new idea with definitions. Now, here's some examples. Now, go do it.'" The, "I do, we do, you do." Model, which we're trying to change.
I think that pressing issue of slowly changing that model into a model where kids are actually thinking in math class, I think that's a pressing issue. So, actually I'm going to throw this back to you, Matthew, because that's a pressing issue for us, what do you recommend to teachers to communicate? Do you recommend communicating that philosophical change? Right?
If I'm a teacher who doesn't teach math in that very traditional way, let's say a grade eight, grade nine teacher, and I teach math through problem solving. I teach math through thinking, how do you tell a parent? Or do you recommend telling the parent like "I teach math a little differently than the way maybe you've experienced math. And here's why." Is that something that you guys would recommend to teachers?

Matthew: So, to come back to that, I'll answer that in one second, the reason why I asked you that question, and I'm going to give you a 7.5 out of 10 on your answer, is that I think it was a great answer. But if I were to say the two pressing reasons or hot topics, one has to do with equity, which I think you alluded to within your answer. And the second is coming out of this COVID, coronavirus and how we're teaching them what's happening. And the reason I bring that up is that this, to me, is a book that hits on both of these things, where that, how can we be able to communicate with families in an equitable way where we focus on everyone's needs. And we're in a situation today where students have been remote for a year or they've been missing out or now they're even further behind.
And what ways can we work with parents to help our students bring them out of it? And back to your question about how and what we should be communicating with the parents. We need to be very clear with them about what things they should be doing, but also being so bold to say what things we don't want you to do, "Yes. We know that you know that quick way to be able to find a multiplication of two digit numbers, but please don't do that right now for your child, for your student, because we're eventually going to get there. But we believe very much in teaching for conceptual understanding. Let's start with the concrete, let's start with the understanding. And then, eventually we're going to get to that place where they can do that rope mathematics, if you will."
But instead, many times parents will say, "Oh, forget this. Let's immediately just teach you the way we do this. You borrow this, you carry this, you cross this out." And they're saying, "Oh, my God. What are we doing here?" So, we're doing more harm or more confusion to students.

Hillary: I think that's why we need this. Because everything that we're doing today requires the input of parents. And when we say parents, we mean caregivers, guardians, anybody who supports children outside of the school day. And we need them to be on our team. That's going to help drive the content for the students. So, to add on, we have a chapter two, which is all about understanding what parents need to know. Parents don't need to become teachers, right?
We don't need to teach them every single procedure and everything we're doing and how we're doing it. They don't need that. What they need to know is that math is not a gene, right? We don't pass this down. I think that addresses what you had just mentioned about identity and perception of math. They need to know that math instruction changes just like everything else.
James Santen has said this before, that adults equate familiarity with understanding. And for some reason, just because everybody has had a math class, they think that they know this is what math should look like. But that doesn't mean that that's good math instruction. And so, tech changes, everything changes, math instruction also changes as we learn more.
And then, the last thing we really need parents to know is that we prepare students for the future and not for today. And what I mean by that is, the future is automation, right? If you want your kid to be able to get a job in the future, we're going to have to be smarter than computers. And so, we have to teach math in a way that gets them there. And so, we have a whole chapter dedicated to this and then three other chapters on how to communicate that.

Jon Orr: I love it. I love it. And you've both touched on some really key, important things. Again, coming out of this pandemic and equity, I think they're very closely linked because let's be honest, the students who needed the additional support in order to make mathematics education as equitable and accessible as possible, those are the students who are likely going to be in need of the most support.
And that really ties into this pedagogical approach to how we teach math and the fact that we don't actually need to memorize everything, but rather learn how to be thinkers and allow students to access problems. You had mentioned, on the communication piece, even giving parents a little bit in terms of not only what is it that we are learning, but also some things that they can do at home. And I know that sometimes educators get a little bit stressed out about having to add more to their plate.
Could you just pull out from thin air, just an idea of what you mean by the actual support or resource that they can use at home? Because I have a funny feeling that you're not talking about three hours of activities to do at night, but more or less something very small that allows math to sort of happen in the home, even if it's through conversations. So, what are you thinking about that? Hillary, and then, we'll flip to Matthew.

Hillary: Sure. And for what it's worth, I give you a 10 at a 10 for your answer. I thought it was-

Jon Orr: You're the best.

Hillary: Okay? I just wanted to add that in there.

Kyle Pearce: We'll cut out what Matthew said.

Hillary: Exactly.

Kyle Pearce: You know that? At this point I'm going to announce, Matthew is not invited to the virtual summit this year.

Jon Orr: Only Hillary.

Hillary: Yeah. That's not how you make friends. We'll work on that. But to answer your question, we've talked about really simple things. So, for example, in one of the letters that you might send home, introducing a unit overview, right? "Hey parents, we have a unit coming up on multiplication. Here's what to expect." And so, you give them some information that makes them feel intelligent, right? That's what we want. We want them to feel knowledgeable.
Then you give them some information so that they can feel helpful. So, what you might say is something like, "At the end of this unit." Or on a day when your student is struggling, "These are some questions we want you to ask your child and then let us know what the response is." Or they don't have to let us know just, "Ask your child these questions. And here are some samples solutions that we should listen for."
So, we just give them a little bite of what they should be asking. It's not about doing the work for the kid. It's not about handing in correct homework all the time or anything like that. It's just about, "How do we help parents feel familiar with the content enough that they know how to ask questions to support a child who's frustrated at home or entering a stage of frustration?"

Kyle Pearce: That's super great info. We're going to flip it over to Matthew and see if he wants to add any more issues. I know that we were talking about activities at home, but I'm wondering if you want to add about this idea of homework at home or these varying levels of homework at home?

Matthew: I want to focus on making math fun. So, what about focusing on games? There are so many amazing games at the elementary level that either are specific to math or have embedded mathematics in them. These are things such as, well we have some of the more popular games like mastermind, there's no numbers in their game, but the best problem solving game ever created. Mancala, backgammon. And then, we have a newer one like the Albert's insomnia and Prime Climb.
These are games that children actually enjoy playing. And they're working on the mathematics. We spend so much time encouraging our children to do reading, "Read before bed. Let's read together. I'll read to you, you read to me." But when do we do that for math? No, we don't want them to practice multiplication tables with flashcards. That's not what I'm implying, but let's do some games and do fun math activities.

Hillary: Math before bed, that sounds like something you two know about.

Jon Orr: We do know a little about math before bed and that's exactly the reason we created that resource, the website, the book, is to not drill and kill, but have these great conversations about mathematics and the underlying concepts before we kind of shut our eyes, just like we read at bed. I think it gives so much to the relationship building, can definitely be included in there as a great, say by-product, to say, talking about mathematics.
As always, you two have given us so much info and so many valuable insights into helping parents and helping teachers help parents. I think that's the big shift here with your new book. Before we wrap up here, I wondering if, for each of you, could you guys give us, what is one big idea or big takeaway that you would love to leave our listeners with before they shut their phone off and put it in their pocket?

Hillary: Well, we as math teachers, often focus on the content first, "Oh. My kids are struggling with fluency. Let me buy a book on that." Or, "Oh. My kids can't solve problems for the life of them. Let me learn how to help them do it better." And we often forget or push aside the thought that, "Oh. My kids are struggling to enjoying maths." Or "Oh. They're learning these shortcuts at home and coming in and undoing all of the conceptual development that I've taught."
And that it's achievable to fix this by just partnering with parents. So, it's easy to think that what you're doing with parents is already enough, or to think that once your school system changes their habits, your classroom won't make a difference, you have to wait for the school to do it. But no, you changing your practice with partnering with parents will help improve students' content. It will. And so, this book is just a vital companion for every math teacher.

Matthew: And I'm going to give you my top five list of now what I believe are the best ways to support parents in mathematics. Jon, I'm going to ask you for a little drum roll, please, sir.
Number five, host math specific parent events. Number four, use strength based language when communicating with parents, focusing on what the students can do and have done rather than what they can't do or have not done. Number three, use parent speak, not educator speak, simple language. Number two, communicate often with families. And number one, view parents as partners, don't view them as adversaries, which sometimes people do and say, "Oh. Parents are part of the problem." Presume positive intentions, get them on your side, view them as a partner and it's going to change the game.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. Going back to what Hillary had mentioned, this idea of in my mind, I'm picturing it's you are doing this work to make your life easier and the student's life better, not the other way around. I think sometimes we get stuck in this idea of like, "It's more to do?" But it's in order to make the next day easier, the next week easier the next month, the next semester, whatever.
And Matthew, what a great idea. This idea that we are looking at parents as partners, I think that also helps to alleviate some of the anxiety we get when we think about, "How do I communicate with parents?" By doing that early and often and letting them know right upfront that you are the biggest advocate for their child, other than them themselves, I think is what will really strengthen that relationship and you will get parents who are working hard to be that partner that you're hoping they will become.
And I want to thank you both for being amazing friends, amazing colleagues, awesome math educators, and for doing so much to help the math community, the math education community, so that they can support the students that are in front of them everyday. Friends, remind the Math Moment Maker community where can they learn more about each of you. Let's go to Matthew and then we'll flip to Hillary.

Matthew: Well, you can find my website, mathwithmatthew.com. And I want to say that I feel like I killed it today. I'm going to give myself a nine out of 10. No, I was a nine. I was on but not perfect, but luckily it was higher than Hillary, which I feel was a six out of 10.

Kyle Pearce: It's still better than last time, right?

Matthew: Yes. Exactly. Baby steps.

Hillary: ¿Unbelievable. Well, I'm giving myself a 10 out of 10 because I thought I killed it. But you can find me on Twitter with the handle doctor, D-R, underscore Kreisberg. K-R-E-I-S-B-E-R-G. Or you can find me on Lesley University Center for Mathematics Achievements website. And I hope we can do this again in two years on July 15th, 2023.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Yes. Pretty sure-

Kyle Pearce: Actually it's July 16th, because it's two years and one day.

Jon Orr: Right. That would be the pattern that we continue here.

Hillary: I just looked back, it's actually July 15th.

Kyle Pearce: What?

Hillary: Don't even know how that is possible.

Kyle Pearce: crosstalk. The balloons are falling from the sky. I love it.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Thanks so much, you two, for joining us here and taking some time out of your super busy schedules to talk about partnering with parents. And yes, we will definitely get something on the books here for, not two years, we got to make it a year, next year, to keep this conversation going. So, have a great rest of your day. And thanks again for joining us.

Matthew: Thank you for having us. It's been a pleasure. Great to talk to you both

Kyle Pearce: As always, both Jon and I love having interviews, not just with any math influencers out there, but Hillary and Matthew definitely, not only bring us some brand new things to think about each time, but also they make it fun and comical all at the same time.
So, a special thank you to Hillary and Matthew for spending some time with the Math Moment Maker community, once again. And I just want to give you a quick heads up that, unfortunately, only one of the duo, will be Hillary, who will be joining us this year at the virtual summit in November. So, make sure you check out Hillary's session. Matthew, unfortunately, has finally put his foot down and he is not going to present with Hillary anymore. No, actually he just has another family commitment being that he is a family guy and unfortunately.

Speaker 4: Yes. Yes. And as always, what we want to do when we listen to an episode is continue to reflect so that you can let these ideas sink in. How are you going to put into action, the ideas that Hillary and Matthew talked about in this episode? How do you kind of solidify that? Are you going to chat with your partner or a colleague? Or hey, do it with the Math Moment Maker community over on Facebook in our private Facebook group, Math Moment Maker K through 12 or over on any social media channel at Make Math Moments is our handle over there.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. And remember friends, the academy is there waiting for you. We have over 800 wonderful Math Moment Makers who have taken the plunge and want to do a deep dive. And they're constantly sharing the reflections in the community area of the academy. So, head on over to makemathmoments.com/academy and give it a look.

Kyle Pearce: In order to ensure you don't miss out on new episodes, as we release them every Monday morning, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.
Shownotes, links to resources and complete transcripts to read from the web or download and take with you. You can head on over to makemathmoments.com/episode143. Again, that's makemathmoments.com/episode143. Well, Math Moment Makers, until next time. I'm Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And high five for you.

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