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UnPACKing K-5 Math for Caregivers: A Videocast

As parents and other caregivers work alongside teachers to help educate children at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, NC State College of Education faculty with experience and expertise in elementary mathematics education have created a video series to help those caregivers better understand common K-5 mathematical concepts.

Developed by mathematics education faculty in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, each UnPACKing K-5 Math for Caregivers installment will discuss a different mathematical topic and its importance in mathematical education, as well as provide tips for caregivers teaching the topic at home.

Topics covered so far include:

You can watch each video through the links provided above, or learn more about each weekly topic and access related resources below.


In their first video, Paola Sztajn, Ph.D. associate dean for research and innovation; Valerie Faulkner, Ph.D., teaching associate professor of mathematics education; Jessica Hunt, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics education and special education; and Temple Walkowiak, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics education, focus on the topic of place value.

They offer tips for caregivers that include:

  • Giving kids more opportunities to build out groups of 10s to help understand their mathematical thought process,
  • Seizing opportunities in everyday life to ask children mathematical questions that could help build their place value knowledge, and
  • Using different methods to help children represent number groupings and understand how these groupings create larger numbers.

You can watch the first videocast, “Place Value: What is it? Why is it Important? And How Can You Teach it at Home?” below.


In the second installment of the videocast, Sztajn, Faulkner and Walkowiak discuss why mathematical language matters for parents who are teaching their children at home.

They offer tips for caregivers that include:

  • Use precise mathematical language to help children learn the proper terms for things like numbers, numerals and digits as well as geometric concepts.
  • Review your child’s textbook or online materials to re-familiarize yourself with mathematical language, as many adults simplify mathematical terms or use incorrect terminology.
  • Be careful about the word “equal” because in mathematics, two things can have the same value but still be represented differently. For example, three and the square root of nine have the same value but are presented differently.

You can watch the second videocast “Why Does Mathematical Language Matter for Caregivers?” below.


In the third video in the UnPACKing K-5 Math for Caregivers series, Sztajn, Faulkner and Walkowiak discuss why counting is powerful. 

They offer tips for caregivers that include: 

  • Use items around your house to facilitate counting, for example counting how many cartons of eggs are in the fridge and how many eggs are inside each carton to help children understand units
  • Help kids understand numerical order and subtraction by counting backwards, using timers on things like microwaves as a teaching tool 
  • Pay attention to the way children group items when counting objects, as it can give you information as to what they understand about quantity

To assist with teaching about counting at home, they suggest the following online resources for parents:

Watch the third videocast “What Makes Counting So Powerful?” below.


In the fourth installment, Sztajn, Hunt and Walkowiak discuss what it means to approach mathematics from a position of strength. 

They offer tips for caregivers that include: 

  • When a child asks for help with a math problem, first ask them to tell you what they already understand and acknowledge why their ideas are good before explaining why they are not a valid solution to the problem. 
  • Acknowledge that there are often multiple ways to approach a mathematical problem, and avoid imposing your own mathematical thinking when helping your child
  • Identify a child’s mathematical strengths and allow them to share their thinking, them work from there to solve the problem.

Watch the fourth video, “How Can Caregivers Approach Math from a Strength Perspective?” below.


In the fifth UnPACKing K-5 Math for Caregivers videocast, Szjatn, Hunt and Walkowiak discuss helping students begin to build fractional concepts.

They offer tips for caregivers that include: 

  • When solving fraction problems, take a moment to stop and think about the unit, or whole, before dividing it
  • Use sharing situations at home– such as dividing food between family members– and kids’ desire for things to be divided equally to have a discussion about fractions
  • To begin building fractional concepts, have kids work to figure out how to divide items that are already cut into portions, like a pizza, before having them work to figure out how to divide whole objects, like a sandwich

Watch the fifth video, “How Can Parents Help Kids Build Fractional Concepts?” below:


In the sixth videocast, Sztajn, Walkowiak and Faulkner discuss subitizing–the idea that kids can process and understand the value of a set without counting–and why it’s important for kids.

They offer tips for educators that include:

  •  It’s important to show kids that the way items are put into groups can either help or hurt their ability to quickly determine how many items they have
  • Have your kids use the Subitize Tree app to practice regularly 
  • Start at the lowest level for every kid to see if there is a gap in their knowledge, before moving up to more complex subitizing concepts like multiplication and division

You can watch “What is Subitizing and How Does it Help Kids?” below.

This post will be updated to include each new videocast as it is released.