Family involvement in children's mathematics education experiences: Voices of immigrant Chinese American students and their parents

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Liang, Senfeng
Edwards, Ann
This study examines ways in which Chinese immigrant families are involved in their children's mathematics education, particularly focusing on how different types of families utilize different forms of capital to support their children's mathematics education. The theoretical framework defines four types of Chinese immigrant families - working families, small business families, transitional professional families, and settled professional families - and addresses three forms of capital - cultural, social and economic capital. In the analysis, the first two groups are often clustered as less educated families and the other two groups as highly educated families. Nine families with different backgrounds participated in the study. Data include observations, interviews, essays and Twitter messages from students, and a video discussion activity. Data analysis utilized cross-case analysis (Yin, 2002). First, this study shows significant differences in how Chinese immigrant parents conceptualize U.S. mathematics education. Highly educated parents believed U.S. mathematics education failed to meet their children's mathematical needs while less educated parents were less critical of U.S. mathematics education. Second, this study examines how different types of families use cultural, social and economic capital to influence their children's mathematics education. Parent tutoring and aspirations are indicators of cultural capital. Less educated parents tended to tutor their children when they were in lower grades. Students with highly educated parents received more direct tutoring from their parents, even when they went on to more advanced grades. All parents had high aspirations for their children's education, but to varying degrees depending on the type of family. One common approach was to send their children to supplementary education programs which suggest an indicator of social capital. Family location and hiring tutors are indicators of economic capital. All families but one managed to live in what they believed were good school districts. Higher income families also spent money to hire tutors to teach their children academic subjects (including mathematics) and sports. This study contributes to the exploration of the role of families in the mathematics education of Chinese American students. It also extends current literature in general Chinese American studies that primarily focus on highly educated, high income, professional families and less educated, low income, working families while omitting populations that fall between them, particularly small business families and transitional professional families.