Café Maths Night: An American Middle School

Café Maths Night

Numbers are all around us – part of everyday life, but some pupils and parents can be intimidated by secondary school maths.  In the past, this American Middle School (pupils aged 11 to 14 years old) struggled to get families to attend any events involving maths.  Not anymore!

The Action Team at the school includes teachers, support staff, parents and members of the local community and they developed a wonderful way to make maths popular and palatable by pairing maths with ice cream sundaes.  More than 100 pupils and many more parents and family members gathered at the school to earn delicious treats by playing a variety of maths games at Café Maths Night.

The team approached a local support group who donated materials for maths gift bags and a local casino provided decks of cards for some of the games. 

The headteacher sent home fliers to promote the event and he created a short film which was displayed in various places in the school to attract both pupils and visitors.  The headteacher also reminded staff about the event at meetings, and thanked them for their help with planning and participation.  The teachers built confidence about Café Maths Night in advance by teaching pupils in class how to play the math games featured at the event.  Pupils also helped by creating posters to mark the locations of the different games.

On Café Maths Night, families were welcomed by senior pupils and senior management and were given a menu of games and a map of the game locations.  The families attended the first session to hear about the games and how to play them.  If they attended four maths game stations, they would earn an ice cream sundae.  If they visited five stations, pupils would receive an extra topping.  As an extra bonus, if a family created a homework plan together, they would receive a maths gift bag full of games to take home.

At the first four stations, families played games that enabled pupils to show off their knowledge of integers, fractions, multiplication, and probability. 

At the fifth station, families watched a slide show explaining how to make an effective homework plan.  Families were given time to create their own plans, and teachers were there to help.  The gift bag incentive ensured that families did not skip this important stop.  Families were delighted to get the gift bags, which contained versions of the maths games to play together at home.  One parent was heard saying to her daughter: 'This is something really fun we can do together at night, instead of you texting on your phone'.

The Café Maths Night helped to improve relationships between home and school and parent and child.  It also helped everyone to understand that maths is not something to be afraid of.  The headteacher said: 'Parents learned ways to work on maths with pupils at home in positive and engaging ways, and to be an active participant in their child’s learning'.


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