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Raising Up Strengths in Latino Families’ Mathematical Practices With Young Children

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Engaging young children to early math is important in the development of their early math skills, their reading development, as well their ability to use math later in life (Claessens, Duncan, & Engel, 2009; Clements & Sarama, 2014; Watts, Duncan, Sigler, & Davis-Kean, 2014). Families play an important role in promoting mathematical competencies – through creating math-rich home environments, holding high expectations for mathematical thinking, and participating with children in math activities at home, in school and in the community. However, we know very little about the ways that families from immigrant Latino homes in the United States support the development of mathematical thinking in the early years, with the majority of the existing research reflecting a deficit interpretation (i.e., what parents do not do).

The purpose of this exploratory study is to document, from a naturalistic perspective, how Latino immigrant families organize and participate in math-related activities with their preschool-aged children. Specifically, this study examines: (1) the ways Latino immigrant families from low-income homes spontaneously think and talk mathematical concepts with their preschool-aged children, and (2) the routine and everyday activities in the lives of children that contain math-related concepts.

Data for this study were drawn from focus group and naturalistic observations conducted as part of a larger project focused on Latino family engagement in a large urban area. Nine semi-structured focus groups (with 75 participants) were conducted in Spanish with Latino primary caregivers of children between the ages of 3-5 years. The majority (58%) of participants had less than a high school diploma and 71% of participants identified Mexico as their country of origin. Discussions focused on the use, type, and function of practices in the home that support children’s learning and development. Ten families were selected from the focus groups to participate in 3 two-hour home visits. Families were asked to go about their day as they naturally would. Focus groups and home visits were audiotaped, transcribed, and coded for math-related content.

Results & Discussion
Preliminary findings show that Latino mothers are utilizing mathematics in a breath of naturalistic ways. They address mathematical concepts such as numeracy, quantity, counting, patterning, and shapes. They also attune to spatial relationships (e.g., order, positioning) as well as comparisons (e.g., more and less). They elevate these concepts through collaborative interactions that focus on lessons related to the importance of sharing, personal stories and events (e.g., age, time, describing the world around), routine activities (e.g., cooking, getting dressed) as well as direct teaching. Data also suggest that prior educational experiences and contact with preschool programs affects parents’ feelings about mathematics in positive and inhibitory ways.

This study highlights the importance of mathematics in the lives of young Latino children and their families. Discussion and implications will be explored in terms of broadening mathematics interventions and curriculum with a focus on strengths of families. It will also highlight the need for shifts in mindsets, from devaluing and doing to and for Latino families, to one of valuing and co-creating with them.


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