POST FALLS - Parents with students in the Post Falls School District will be the first in the state to pilot a new online course designed to teach them how to help their children with math homework this fall.
The pilot program was designed by University of Idaho Math Education Professor Julie Amador, as part of the university's STEM Education Research Initiative. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.
It is one of three pilot projects that will be launched in Idaho this year as part of a five-year research project that is aimed at breaking down barriers to math and science education in Idaho.
The project started three years ago with a series of statewide and local surveys that gauged the attitudes and perceptions of math and science education in Idaho.
From those surveys, researchers were able to customize innovative pilot projects to address specific education problems at the community level.
In Post Falls, researchers found that STEM Initiative surveys showed parents had limited time to help their children with homework.
The survey also found that 49 percent of Kootenai County parents, compared to 43 percent statewide, said their own math and science knowledge made it at least occasionally difficult to help their child with homework.
"In the survey parents said they are willing to help their children with homework," Amador said. "So we came up with something that parents can do on their own time that should help them."
She developed a video drawing on the everyday math assets in Post Falls.
"I took pictures of everyday math all over Post Falls," she said. "And I have imbedded them in the video."
She said she took pictures of the gas pumps at the Chevron gas station to help teach parents how to get their young students counting.
"I also took a picture of sign on the door that said 'Monster Energy drinks, two for $3.50,'" she added. "So parents can ask their children to figure out what one of them would cost."
The video keys in on the type of math problems students will be facing while school districts statewide are transitioning over to Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
Amador said parents can help their children more than think. She advocates weaving math into everyday activities at home.
"The key will be getting parents to find the time to watch the 16-minute video online," she said.
In addition to the instructional information, pictures and video clips will show practical uses of math, such as how to help children calculate percent increases on gas station visits.
"Kids are in school 6-7 hours a day, and the rest is spent with parents," Amador said. "The more parents understand math teachings, the more they'll know how to support their children."
Amador said the videos are finished and she will be working with the schools soon to help launch the project.
Initially, Amador hopes to get a small sample group of parents engaged in the project. She said the parents will receive a gift card for watching the video and taking a short survey after the video.
The video will also be posted on the university website, so interested members of the public can view it too. If the project is successful, Amador said she hopes to tie into a larger project she is working on to provide regional math support centers statewide.
"We will see how it goes," she said. "If this doesn't work for parents, we'll just have to try something else."