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Ava D'Ortona, 6, right foreground,make her own rekenrek, or arithmetic rack, at Springbrook Elementary School's math night for first-graders. Behind her  is Gia Derota, 6, and her grandfather, Chris Bush. | (Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun)
Juliana Brown,6, and her mom Jillian played a dice game at Springbrook Elementary School 's math night for first grade students.l(Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun)  Nora Zerbarini,6, listens for instructions while using a rekenrek( an arithmetic rack or abacus) during math activities at Springbrook Elementary School during a math night for first grade students.(Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun)  Caleb Robin,6, was using a rekenrek (an arithmetic rack or abacus) to do addition at a math activities table at Springbrook Elementary School's math night for first grade students.l(Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun) Bejamin Wu,6, and his mom, Yan Eng played a dice game at Springbrook Elementary School's math night for first grade students.l(Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun)

Schools push family nights to get parents more involved in education

WESTERLY — Earlier this month, Nancy Faubert spent an evening with her daughter, Allyson, at Springbrook Elementary School’s Grade 1 Math Night.

The family hopped from one math station to the next, participating in making rekenreks, or arithmetic racks, using the racks to solve math problems and visiting a math literature table, among other activities.

Allyson, who will be 7 years old on Feb. 1, read books regarding money math problems and played dice games.

“It is important to have activities like this because it gets the families involved in the school, to interact with one another and to see how hard the children work through play to learn,” Faubert said. “Allyson loves school and loves to learn one of her favorite subjects — math.”

Springbrook and Westerly’s three other elementary schools each have several family involvement nights throughout the school year. The nights, first and foremost, are meant to promote parent involvement in the schools.

“Family Math Night is an opportunity for families to see a variety of activities that we do in the classroom to promote number fluency,” Springbrook first-grade teacher Rebecca Mason said. “It provides a home-school connection.”

Holly Bowen, Springbrook’s parent liaison, said the nights offer a “supportive environment” and can also promote success in other subjects, such as reading and social studies.

Local school officials believe parent involvement is a key for successful learning, so involvement nights — and at a few schools, a full week of nights — are crucial. Dunn’s Corners Elementary, for example, plays host to a math-science and reading-writing night each year.

Bradford Elementary has W.H.A.R.M.S. Week in April when students’ work in writing, health, arts, reading, math and science are showcased.

“We also showcase activities for each subject area, and provide parents with helpful, useful information to support their students,” Bradford Principal Debra Pendola said.

Mary-Kay Patten, of State Street Elementary, helps coordinate family involvement activities at her school. Those events include full weeks of activities: Math Week is the week of Feb. 3, Reading Week is in March and Science Week is in April.

State Street Math Week will include community speakers, math literature sessions and a “Mad About Math” presentation.

“They excite children about all the different curriculum content areas and change their routines,” Patten said. “They also expose children to the community and what content areas look like in the real world and how they are related to the real world. Lastly, it exposes parents to curriculum content areas their children are learning about in school and creates a positive parent-child interaction in a school setting.”

During Springbrook’s Math Night, Dana Horton watched her son, Matthew, rotate through stations, each one offering a chance for Matthew to work on and develop math skills while having fun.

“Most interesting for me was observing my child interact with the teachers as they completed the different tasks,” Horton said. “It was helpful as a parent to see the teachers engaging the children and encouraging them to problem solve and really think about the process of math. An event like this makes me, as a parent, confident in the school, the teachers and the instruction he is receiving. It’s also helpful to see the educators interacting with the kids as it fosters ideas of how we can continue to supplement his education at home.”

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