MSMI has done several parent math nights.We tell parents what they know intuivitely but can't name.
When we are asked to give a math talk by a school and it is well attended, it is because the parents are upset. If it is very well attended, it is because the parents are in an uproar about the math program.
Since we generally are going in to fix the math program, or to support a math change to it, our goal is first to name the problem. We explain the issue (nationally, not just locally, not just here, wherever we are, but nationally) is that US curricula are not preparing kids for algebra. We tell parents what they know intuivitely but can't name. We tell them what they've watched their older kids suffered through. Then we explain we need to change what we teach, when we teach it, and what the teachers know about the maththey teach to fix it. When we are done, generally, parents calm down and give us the benefit of the doubt.
Usually, the second math night (a followup) has 1/4 of the turnout the first one had.
If a math night has no attendees, it is because math is doing just fine--the parents are concerned about some other problem.
Parents don't have time to go to meetings if things are fine. They go to indicate their disapproval or their concern.
We also found if the *children* put on the math night, as one of the grade night programs, it is well received--so if we want parents to learn about the math program, learn the games to practice math facts, etc. then it needs to be a child-centered event. Parents come when kids put on a math carnival. They even enjoy it. It does not need to be fuzzy math--kids LOVE stumping their parents at mental math calculations and bar modeling.
Knowing intuitively that something is amiss: this is the chronic problem parents face. You know something--your cognitive unconscious knows something, rather--but you can't name it.
I remember, when I first became politically engaged here, living in a state of chronic anxiety that a) I didn't know what I was talking about and b) I was about to be publicly called out on not knowing what I was talking about. I spent hours Googling and reading, and reading and Googling, to make sure everything I said and wrote in my district had already been said and written by someone who did know what they were talking about.
Kitchen Table Math was incredibly important to that effort. I wrote posts to put into words what my cognitive unconscious already knew (or suspected), and I said nothing, in district, without ktm commenters vetting it first.
Funny thing: at some point I stopped feeling anxious, and I stopped obsessively fact-checking myself.
I hadn't become an expert on math or math instruction or public schools in general, but somehow I knew enough to feel confident that anything I said -- even something I said off the top of my head -- would be in the realm. Which it generally was.
I also, and I hesitate putting this in print, developed a sense of how thin my adversaries' knowledge was. That's not a criticism. Administrators can't possibly know everything about every subject (that's the problem with central administrators choosing math curricula), and an administrator who went to ed school before constructivism was in full bloom may not actually know that much about the doctrine and its history, however committed s/he may be to "rolling out" one constructivist initiative after another.
In short, at some point it dawned on me that I could pretty much say whatever I wanted and get away with it. I could get sloppy and no one would know but me.
That came as a bit of a shock.
I see politicians and pundits differently now.
Politicians and pundits are churning out an awful lot of content.
How often do they actually know that what they're saying is true?
How much fact checking happens in politics?
I'm guessing not too much.