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Getting Folks to Your Family Math Night Event

Getting Folks to Your Family Math Night Event

If I had to pick one refrain that I hear from educators all over the country it’s How do we get families to come to our event?
It’s obviously a common problem.  One that I don’t have a definitive answer for.  But I do have a few ideas that may help.  Some of them are tried and true and a few I just discovered along the way.
Dinner + Math
We all know that parents are busy people.  Any opportunity to make their lives easier and they’re usually in.  So let’s take dinner off their plate (ha!) and feed them.  A spaghetti feed works well.  But if you want to make it easy, bring in pizza or, even better, have a restaurant donate the food.  You can pass out their restaurant coupons at the Family Math Night sending customers in their direction.  It’s a win/win!
Or how about making the event a two-fer.  Offering dinner is one great way to get families out but so is connecting the Family Math Night event with something else.  For example, one year we had the local police department come and put together fingerprint packets for the families.  This was a huge draw.  Families came for the packets and stayed for the math.  And loved both!
Ice Cream Social
Another idea is to link an ice-cream social with your event.  This one is great at the beginning of the school year as the young kinder families are excited to meet new people and the seasoned families love reuniting after the summer break.  The key to this one is offering the treats near the end of the event.  That way families don’t eat and run.
Homework Pass
So for this next one you’ll need buy-in from the teachers.  But, let me tell you, it’s a huge hit.  All student participants who come to the event receive a FREE Homework Pass.  Of course, there are restrictions on its use.  That book report project is off-limits.  But the kids just L-O-V-E getting these passes.  Why not get one night off from writing out the week’s spelling words?  If you’ve purchased our kits then you have the link to customize and print out your own passes.
Extra Credit Coupon
If the FREE Homework Pass just isn’t for you or your staff, what about an EXTRA CREDIT coupon?  I haven’t tried this one yet, but I like the idea.  So much so, that we’ll be designing our own customizable coupon and including the link in your Family Math Night kit.  I’ll let you know when it’s available.
Next in line, the raffle table.  Everybody loves to win something.  Consider setting up a raffle table where, periodically throughout your event, items get raffled off.  I like to stick to ‘mathy’ items like playing cards, calculators, dice, strategy games, etc.  Click here to see samples of some of my previous raffle tables.  And here’s a great idea shared by one of our curriculum consultants – display the raffle items in a nice basket and put it in the office.  Make sure to label it Family Math Night Raffle Items.  It’s sure to bring in some very excited students!
Family Math Night Ambassadors!
And here’s one of my favorites.  Use upper grade students as Family Math Night Ambassadors to promote the event in the classrooms.  Kids get kids excited.  You’ll need to “train” them before sending them off.  But I’ve got you covered.  Use thisPromotion Presentation Sheet to help.  Have students practice a few times with each other so they get comfortable with what to say.  They’ll need to make appointments with the teachers and when they arrive to do their presentation be sure they bring a few sample activities to share (Ladybug clock from our Math Medley kit or a pattern bracelet from our Nifty Numbers kit or geoboards from our Gellin’ with Geometry kit, a raffle prize, the estimation jar…).  I like to send out my Ambassadors a few days before the event.  Another good time to send them out is the day the flyers go home.
Reminder Stickers
Finally, for the little guys, I like to use Reminder Stickers…a small sticker with the event reminder printed on it.  As K-1 students are walking out the classroom door at the end of the day, put a sticker on their shirt/jacket.  These are customizable and print on Avery labels 5163.
These may be ideas for your Family Math Night event, but they can be tailored for just about any event.  If you’ve tried something at your school that works, I’d love to hear about it.  Getting families back to school in the evening can be difficult; if there are ways that work – we all need to know!
And remember, these parent engagement events are just the type of thing that the PTA and Title I funds are looking to support.  So reach out to them.  You’ll be glad you did.
Once your families flock to your Family Math Night event, we’re here to make sure it’s the best event of the year.  Feel free to call or email us about our Nifty Numbers,Math Medley, or Gellin’ with Geometry Family Math Night kits.  And don’t forget to check out our Take-Home kits, Play-N-Take and Make-N-Take.
Training Family Math Night Student Station Facilitators

Training Family Math Night Student Station Facilitators

family math night station facilitators

Students make great Family Math Night Station Facilitators. As much as I can, I use students in grades 5 and up to run my stations.

– It’s a great leadership opportunity.
– It shows them respect when you trust them with the responsibility of being in charge of their station.
– They develop inter-personal skills working with both their peers and adults.
– Their own learning and understanding is underscored when they show others how to do a task.

About a week before the event I hold a meeting with all my student station facilitators. The meeting runs between one hour and 1 1/2 hours depending on whether they’ve watched the video of their station in advance (see Flipped Classroom below).

In advance, I’ve organized all the materials needed for each station into bags. The photo below reflects the stations for our Gellin’ with Geometry Family Math Night. After thanking students for their very important role and going over some logistics (time to show up for the event, cleaning up their station, what to wear, etc.) I describe each station then organize students into those stations according to their interests. I hand out the bags and students practice the activities. As they are doing that, I rotate. If I can, I have one other adult with me so that checking in with student understanding of their station is easier.

Family Math Night Organization

Lately, I’ve been adding a What Do You Notice? poster to each of my events. The student(s)in charge of the Estimation Table will be handling the poster comments, as well. During the training they are busy answering the question.

It’s actually a pretty easy training. If I feel some students need additional practice with some of the advanced activities, I send them home with the materials so they can practice.

On event night, I give each student a Family Math Night visor to wear so they are easily recognized by the participants as the Station Facilitators.  If you don’t have the visors, they can wear their school t-shirt or, at the very least, all wear the same color shirt.  When the doors open and the participants flood in, they shine. It’s really their Family Math Night event. They do a fabulous job.

The Flipped Classroom and Training Students

I used the flipped classroom model yesterday when I trained a group of 16 fifth graders to be station facilitators at my next Math Medley Family Math Night event. It went amazingly well! Here’s what I did.

In advance of working with the students, I sent home the link to the Math Medley station videos. In the videos I describe all of the activities at each one of the stations and share tips on running the station. So by the end of the videos, the students should have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

When I arrived for the training, I asked them if the videos were helpful and if they had any questions. With the exception of one station that was a little confusing to them because they didn’t have access to the actual materials, they thought that by watching the videos they had a pretty good handle on what to do. It was the easiest training I’d ever done. I was able to quickly review the stations, have them try out a few of the activities, and, voila, we were done! The whole thing took less than 45 minutes…and a lot of that was working on one of the ‘Challenge’ problems from the Polygons Station which they were determined to figure out!

All in all, the flipped classroom model really worked in this case. Having the videos is a huge help to the person organizing the Family Math Night event. Simply give the station facilitator the link to their station and training is done! If fifth graders can do it, anyone can!

Family Math Night Coordinator and Station Facilitators

Family Math Night Coordinator and Station Facilitators

What a great group of volunteers! These are the station facilitators and family math night coordinator for one of our latest Math Medley Family Math Night events. By the way, notice how two of them are students…one middle school and the other high school.

I like how most of them are wearing the school spirit t-shirt. It’s a great way to show support of the school but it’s also a great way for participants to know who is the station facilitator. Visors are another idea, as well. And, of course, name tags.

Each one of these facilitators watched the short 5-minute clip of their station (links included with the kit) and in no time at all were prepared and ready to take on enthusiastic kids and their parents. As one facilitator put it, “Watching the video clip was brilliant!”

Here’s what Suzy, the family math night coordinator, had to say about her role, “I’m a mother of 3 that works part time and has a very busy life. I love event planning, but being a Family Math Night coordinator sounded overwhelming to me when I was first approached because I was worried about how much time I had to give for planning in order for this event to be a success. However, everything I needed was right in front of me and all the support I needed was available either online, via e-mail or a quick phone call. It was the easiest event I have ever coordinated and it was a huge success and I can’t stop thinking about the next one and how we can add to the evening. I am so grateful that I said yes! This needs to be happening in every school! It is exciting! It is fun! And best of all, kids are learning! WIN! WIN! WIN!”

Mission accomplished. Thanks, Suzy!

Family Math Night – Recruiting Volunteers via

Family Math Night – Recruiting Volunteers via

For any Family Math Night event to be successful you’re going to need to recruit volunteers. For a Nifty Numbers event, you’ll need volunteers to help run your stations. You may also decide to have someone take care of the photocopying.

A super easy way to recruit these volunteers is by using I know this because I actually set up a mock family math night event using their service. It’s FREE. Plus I wanted to get a feel for the process.

I loved it! I started by watching the short instructional video on the site which I found to be clear and informational. From there I went ahead and created my sign-up sheet. The set-up was intuitive enough for me to have the whole thing done in just a few minutes. And what I really liked was that I could list specific jobs I needed volunteers for and then give a detailed description of what was required for those jobs. That would allow people to sign up for exactly what they were interested in.

But my favorite thing was receiving my Nifty Numbers Station Facilitator email reminder two days before my mock family math night reminder. I love the idea that I don’t have to run around tracking down my volunteers or spend my evenings calling them to remind them of their assignments. SignUp took care of all of that.

Having gone through the whole SignUp set-up and liking it, I knew it would be a good match for my Family Math Night kits. So I contacted them. The quick response I got back and the enthusiasm for the idea of linking VolunteerSpot and Family Math Night was exciting. They even wrote a blog and included several graphics specific to Nifty Numbers Family Math Night as a guide for the Family Math Night Coordinators. Check it out here.