Findings in this section provide insights into who (parents and allies) supported the continued mathematics education of children during the COVID-19 emergency remote instruction (RQ2). As mentioned above, our two data sources provided insights into the various forms of human and social capital leveraged by parents during emergency remote mathematics instruction. First, we present our findings about the human and social capital available to parents across both online (Twitter) and offline (school-constructed, home/community) spaces. We provide additional details about the teachers and other educational allies accessible to parents through Twitter. Then, we discuss what the survey results revealed about parents’ activation of various forms of human and social capital in continuing mathematics education in the home.
3.1.1. Twitter Users
Across social media posts to #mathathome on Twitter, for participants who sent two or more tweets, teachers made up the plurality of participants (n = 12; 21%), followed by accounts for schools (n = 7; 15%) and educational organizations (n = 7; 15%). Instructional coaches and administrators (n = 6; 13%), faculty at universities (n = 3; 7%), and accounts for mathematics education-related hashtags (n = 1; 2%) and a media outlet (n = 1; 2%) made up the remaining accounts that were able to be coded. While teachers made up the largest group of users, the social network analysis revealed that the most active users were two educational organizations (centrality = 296 and 56, representing the numbers of replies, retweets, quotes, and mentions that each user received) as well as a teacher (centrality = 82), suggesting that although there were fewer organizations than teachers involved in #mathathome, these organizations were central, and therefore potentially influential to others. Only three users were identified as parents on the basis of their profile information.
Twitter participants were located in North America (U.S. (n
= 101), Canada (n
= 49), and Mexico (n
= 5)), as well as Europe (The U.K. (n
= 6), France (n
= 5), Germany (n
= 3)), India (n
= 8), and Australia (n
= 2). Six other countries had a single participant (Figure 3
). As is depicted by the size of the circles in Figure 3
(with larger circles representing a greater number of tweets posted by individuals), the most active participants were located in the U.S., Canada, and India.
Qualitative analysis of Twitter data showed that the mathematical content of posts was overwhelmingly targeted to an audience of parents of elementary-aged children. Explicit references to grade level primarily mentioned early (n = 21) and late elementary (n = 14) grades and preschool (n = 8) but only a few for middle (n = 3) or secondary (n = 1) grade levels.
3.1.2. Survey Respondents
Quantitative analysis of survey responses provided insights into who was engaging children in mathematics at home, where a similar trend regarding grade level emerged. Most respondents were parents of elementary-aged children (n = 73), compared to middle grades (n = 20), secondary (n = 4), and preschool (n = 7). Children largely enrolled in public schools (81%), with only 14% enrolled in private schools and 5% enrolled in other types of schools, often those receiving public funding (e.g., Catholic).
Ninety percent of parents reported doing mathematics at home with their children, and most parents reported that they were very confident (n = 60) or confident (n = 22) in supporting their children’s mathematics learning. Some parents explained in open-ended responses that they felt confident supporting mathematics at home because they were mathematics educators themselves, but other mathematics educators identified challenges (shared with other, non-educator parents) faced in ensuring continued mathematics learning during COVID-19. For example, one teacher-parent explained: “Doing math with my child is painful and has led to frustrations and melt-downs … Until COVID-19, I typically avoided helping her with the occasional math homework … doing math at home has been brutal.” Parents, teachers, and non-teachers alike identified a lack of familiarity with school-based methods or developmentally appropriate mathematics as reasons they felt less confident in supporting mathematics learning at home: “I have taught middle school math for 15 years, but don’t necessarily know what is developmentally appropriate for my Kindergartener,” and, “they don’t teach addition like I used to do it at school and I don’t want to interfere in his method”.
When we divided respondents into two groups by education level (high, representing the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree, and low, representing graduating from high school or reporting another educational credential) and race/ethnicity (white; people of Color), we found that, overall, 91% of respondents are highly educated and 22% are people of Color (see gray highlights in Table 2
above). Only nine parents made up the group of respondents with low levels of education, and 55% (n
= 5) were also people of Color (i.e., over half of the individuals from lower educated backgrounds are people of Color). Above, Table 2
shows the percentage of parents by education level and race/ethnicity who reported engaging in mathematics at home with their children.
Descriptions of parents’ confidence in and willingness to support mathematics at home varied. One parent noted: “I am very involved in my child’s math education. My own level of math education is a [high school graduate] level, therefore, I am capable in providing any support necessary,” while another parent shared, “My children are in primary. I’m already struggling to remember and keep up.” We concluded, however, that race and education level did not help to explain differences in parents’ confidence or willingness to support mathematics at home.
Survey responses concerning parents’ social media use bolstered the case for #mathathome users and survey respondents reflecting different uses of social and human capital, as just over two-thirds—64%—of parents said they never used social media for mathematics education. As one parent described, “I was not aware this was a thing people do. Interesting …”. Moreover, those who reported using social media for mathematics at home did so only occasionally (26%), with 10% reporting monthly, weekly and daily use.
Responses provided insights into parents’ allies (RQ2; social and human capital) and resources (RQ1; material capital; spaces) for engaging with mathematics at home. YouTube was the most popular resource (n
= 20), followed by Facebook (n
= 12), Pinterest (n
= 8), and Twitter (n
= 6), suggesting that when parents used social media and related resources, they were likely to turn to spaces other than Twitter. Qualitative analysis showed that parents tended to identify specific blogs or sites by individuals or educational organizations over social media hashtags or groups. Some examples included: Math Mammas (https://blogs.ams.org/mathmamas
(accessed on 9 October 2020)), Khan Academy, and YouCubed (https://www.youcubed.org/
(accessed on 9 October 2020)). Parents did not mention #mathathome among Twitter hashtags; hashtags mentioned included: #MTBoS, #iteachmath, and #MathArtChallenge (mentioned 2–3 times by respondents) and #WODB, #unitchat, #mathforkids, and #tmwyk (each mentioned once).
Finally, parents overwhelmingly reported turning to their child’s teacher as an ally (n = 76). Other allies included a partner or spouse (n = 57), a child’s older sibling (n = 29), other adults at child’s school (n = 26), other parents (n = 21), and other family members (n = 19). Less common allies included tutors, community organizations, and members of professional networks. Only seven parents said they did not feel like they had any allies for mathematics education.