About the Afterschool Training Toolkit and Related Resources
The Afterschool Training Toolkit is available online free of charge.

The following resources can be used with the online Afterschool Training Toolkit to give you the resources you need to build fun, innovative, and academically enriching afterschool activities.

Practice: Family Connections

The goal of Family Connections is to engage parents, caretakers, and students in meaningful math experiences and problem-solving activities that help support students' math learning.
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Practice in Action

What Is It?

Family Connections describes methods for engaging family and community support and enthusiasm for math in afterschool, including parent workshops, family nights, or family visits to the program. Family Connections are planned times when parents can visit their child's afterschool program or participate in an event sponsored by the afterschool program. The events may be led by afterschool staff or local experts from the community.

What Do I Do?

Gather information from families and community (possibly through a survey or phone calls) to get a sense of their interests, needs, and preferences. Involve regular day and afterschool teachers to select a specific outcome and an appropriate design for the event. For example, a workshop might be the best way to help parents learn powerful strategies for helping students with mathematics homework, while a family mathematics fair with game booths can help teach parents fun activities they can recreate at home.

Involve regular day-time teachers and parents in the planning of these events. Parents can highlight issues and challenges they face in supporting their children's mathematical learning. Teachers bring knowledge of the regular day program curriculum as well as a wealth of ideas for supporting learning at home. Speaking with both groups will allow you to plan an event that is beneficial and supported by all. For specific considerations for planning, parent workshops, family nights, or family visits to the program, visit the Resources tab.

Why Does It Work?

Parental interest and support is a primary factor for students' educational success. Many parents do not become involved in their children's schooling because they see few opportunities to be involved, sense an indifferent attitude of the school personnel, are intimidated by the educational jargon, or have transportation, safety, or child care issues. Many parents who do not have these problems still do not feel equipped to help their children, especially since mathematics content becomes increasingly difficult as students get older, and the parents might not have the content knowledge to assist their children. There have also been changes in the way that mathematics is taught, which can present some confusion and frustration for parents. Parents might also carry their own negative mathematical experience with them. By taking these issues into consideration, afterschool practitioners can build an environment where parents feel knowledgeable and comfortable to help their children succeed in mathematics.

Planning Your Lesson

Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.

Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons. The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.

Lesson Planning Template (PDF)

Lesson Planning Template (Word document)

Lesson Planning Template Questions

Grade Level
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?

How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?

Learning Goals
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?

Materials Needed
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity. Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?

What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?

Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?

Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.

What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that might be useful—and which was originally developed for science education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see the 5E's Instructional Model.

Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?

After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place. How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?

Sample Lessons

Family Math Nights (K-8)
view lesson

Family Math Nights provide parents with the opportunity to develop mathematical thinking along with their children, and learn strategies, games, and activities that they can use at home to support their children.

Family Math Nights (K-8)

Duration: 30 minutes to 2 hours

What to Do
  • Establish goals: Is there a particular topic or learning strategy that will be taught? Will it be a celebration of student work?
  • Choose a location: Will the event be held in the school cafeteria, classrooms, gymnasium, community center, etc.?
  • Consider attendance: How many people will be invited? A certain grade range? The entire afterschool program?
  • Decide on a date and time: Does an evening or Saturday work better for parents? Make sure to check community and school calendar for conflicts.
  • Think about staffing: Do you need a steering committee to help in the planning and execution? Where will the volunteers come from?
    • A steering committee can help with the planning of the event. You might consider individuals to fill roles such as event coordinator, publicity coordinator, activities coordinator (who plans and makes sure materials are present for learning activities), food/prize coordinator, community coordinator, volunteer coordinator, etc.
    • Volunteers can be afterschool staff, day-school teachers, parents, students, school administration, or community volunteers. Volunteers can work as greeters, registration help, and activity facilitators on the day of the event.
  • Think about how time will be allotted during the event: How will the time be broken up? If you will discuss a particular learning strategy, you may establish activity centers where parents and students can participate in activities based on that goal for the first 30 to 45 minutes of the night. Then allow 30 minutes for all of the participants to reconvene and discuss their experiences with the activities, the learning that occurred, and how this might be used in the home setting.
  • Decide how to promote the event: How will you spread the news about the event? Letters to volunteers? Announcements/flyers to families? Letters to teachers describing the event and requesting support? Press releases? Hearing about the event many times and in many ways tends to increase attendance.
Outcomes to Look For
  • Parent responsiveness and attendance
  • Parent and student engagement in learning
  • Increased parent involvement
  • Increased parent awareness about mathematics
  • Increased parent awareness about math homework help
  • New ideas from parents
  • Increased communication between home and school
Family Math Workshops (K-8)
view lesson

Family Math Workshops enable parents to learn about the types of mathematics that their children are learning in the classroom, and to find out about activities and strategies to support their children's homework.

Family Math Workshops (K-8)

Duration: 30 minutes to 2 hours

What to Do

The first step in planning family math workshops is to determine the challenges that parents and caretakers face when they help their children with their mathematical learning. It is important that parents see the workshop as beneficial to their own ability to help their children learn. Establishing a small group of parents who can assist in the workshop planning will help you meet the needs of parents.

After you establish the event needs, consider these key logistics:

  • Frequency: How often should workshops be held? Monthly? Quarterly?
  • Date and time: When will most parents be able to attend? In the evening? On Saturday?
  • Place: Where will the event be held? In the school? Community center?
  • Topic or speaker: Who and what will be a part of the event agenda?
  • Child care: Do you need to offer child care during the event to encourage attendance? What activities will the children do?
  • Facilitators: Who is knowledgeable on the topics to be covered? Are they available to speak?
  • Materials: What supplemental materials might participants need?
  • Agenda: How will the time be broken out? All-group lecture? Small breakout work groups? Grade-level discussions?
Outcomes to Look For
  • Parent responsiveness and attendance
  • Increased parent involvement
  • Increased parent awareness about mathematics
  • Increased parent awareness about math homework help
  • New ideas from parents
  • Increased communication between home and school


Technology Tip
For a fun family math night have parents and students participate in a mathematical scavenger hunt. Using digital cameras, parents and students could tour the program facility or a near-by location to find examples of math applications in the real-world. They may choose to look for shapes, examples of different patterns, fractions or applications of the Fibonacci series (1,2,3,5,8,13, 21, ..., where each term is the sum of the two preceding ones.). Once the pictures have been taken, have the parents and students use PowerPoint to display their pictures and explain the mathematical example represented in each one.
Web Resources
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

At Home with Math

Equals and Family Math

Parent Portal: Lawrence Hall of Science

A Collection of Activities to Help Enrich Mathematical Learning

U.S. Department of Education Associates: Math Solutions Online

Figure This! Math Challenges for Families

Text Resources

Bafile, C. (2004). Math night by the numbers. Retrieved September 15, 2005, www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin339.shtml.

Charles A. Dana Center. (2000). Family FUNctions: Planners' guide for algebra nights. Austin, Texas: The University of Texas at Austin.

Kyle, D. W., McIntyre, E., Moore, G. H. (2001). Connecting mathematics instruction with the families of young children. Teaching Children Mathematics, 8(2), 80-86.

Pena, D. C. (2000). Parent involvement: Influencing factors and implications. The Journal of Educational Research, 94(1), 42-54.

Public Broadcasting Service (1995-2005). Family Math Night. Retrieved September 15, 2005, http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/math.htm.

Schussheim, J. Y. (2004). Large-Scale Family Math Nights: A Primer for Collaboration. Teaching Children Mathematics, 10(5), 254-257.

Sheldon, S. B., Epstein, J. L. (2005). Involvement Counts: Family and Community Partnerships and Mathematics Achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 98(4), 196-206.


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