Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Linking Home and School:
A BRIDGE to the Many Faces of Mathematics

What Is It?

The BRIDGE model is designed to address the following issues: the effects of mathematical study groups on teachers' professional development and pedagogical practices; the mathematical potential of students' households and activities outside of school; taking familial knowledge to an abstract level with potential academic use; and the role of parents in changing teacher practices.

Why Did It Get Started?

For the past 10 years, the Community Literacy Project and the Funds of Knowledge for Teaching Project carried out work based on the idea that household and community knowledge can provide strategic resources for classroom practice. This approach analyzes the sociocultural history of the households of language-minority children, as well as their labor history, which often reveals accumulated bodies of knowledge and an array of skills, information, and strategies. In a Southwestern context, for example, households of rural origin may know about farming and animal management, whereas those with urban roots may know about construction and other matters such as trade, business, and finance on both sides of the border.

How Does It Work?

BRIDGE focuses on developing communities of learners interested in furthering the teaching and learning of mathematics. Three key components center around mathematics:

Household ethnographic analysis,
 
Teacher/researcher study groups, and
 
Classroom implementation.

A fourth component, parents as learning resources, directly involves parents in the mathematics-learning process.

What Are The Costs?

BRIDGE is supported by a local school district and university cost-sharing.

How Is the Model Implemented in a School?

Following an intensive ethnographic training, which is further supported by readings, teacher-researchers conduct fieldwork in the households of their students. A specific focus is on the mathematical potential of everyday activities such as construction, sewing, budgeting, and gardening. In addition to making household visits, teachers elicit information from their students on the kinds of outside-school practices in their everyday life (e.g., bartering, household chores, construction, mechanics, and infant care). Teachers look specifically for mathematics-related activities and instances of mathematizing.

University-based researchers and teacher-researchers meet regularly in joint study groups to discuss findings and develop an understanding of children's experiences in mathematics. The goal is to develop mathematics learning modules that build on these experiences. These activity settings also serve as a laboratory for developing communities of learners. They focus on teachers as learners of mathematics themselves, engaged in mathematical activities and discussion, and on teachers as agents for pedagogical innovation, engaged in the philosophical underpinnings of such innovation.

Another key aspect of BRIDGE is the connection to students' homes through the active involvement of parents and other household members in the learning process. Parents provide not only household and community knowledge, but information about their children's hobbies and activities that can be used to create learning modules. Parents participate in the creation of learning modules based on their personal expertise and in mathematical activities different from what they have seen in conventional schools.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

The work in the classroom develops communities of learners that reflect a two-way dialogue in mathematics, between school and household. These communities are envisioned to have the following features: By doing and talking about mathematics in periodic workshops, BRIDGE shares its vision of a mathematics learning community with teachers, parents, and children. Initially, these workshops rely on external materials, eventually moving toward a format where parents bring in mathematical activities based on their experiences. The workshops provide an arena for the discussion of mathematics teaching and learning (and of schooling in general) where all participants share their ideas.

Where Can I See It?

BRIDGE is in progress in various elementary and middle school classrooms in Tucson, Arizona.

Whom Do I Contact?

Marta Civil, Rosi Andrade, or Norma Gonzalez
University of Arizona
Linking Home and School: BRIDGE project
Department of Mathematics
617 North Santa Rita
Tucson, Arizona 85721
Telephone: 520-621-6282; Fax: 520-621-9608
E-mail: andrade@math.arizona.edu, civil@math.arizona.edu, or neg@U.arizona.edu

The Research Base

Mathematics has been viewed by some as a gatekeeping mechanism serving to disenfranchise language-minority children (especially Latino and African-American). Additionally, with respect to achievement, non-Asian minority students begin to lag behind as early as age nine, with the gap increasing further as students get older. Several factors have been identified as contributing to the disparities in educational attainment of language and other minority children, among them, "poor self-concept as a 'doer' of math or science; their negative perception of the utility of these subjects in 'real life'; the stereotyping of math and science as White male activities; and the influence of significant others, such as parents, teachers, and peers, in discouraging participation in these subjects".

The BRIDGE project features collaborative work between teachers and researchers, and places the emphasis on the sociocultural context for mathematics learning. The theory that thematic integration of the curriculum enables students to encounter mathematical concepts within socioculturally relevant problem-solving contexts that are more meaningful than the traditional basal-text oriented approach serves as a partial basis for the model. In addition, BRIDGE includes teacher investigation of the local knowledge of the community, as well as the involvement of parents as learning resources of mathematics.
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