Homework Help

Math homework: let's put parents in the equation

Frustrated helping your child with math homework? From conversations with parents and from experiences as an educator, I came up with the following suggestion list for you:

1) Do not tell them the answer!

2) Do not tell them how to do the problem. Listen to their ideas on how to solve the problem.

3) Encourage them to use their own resources. There might be some instances in which you could solve the problem using more advanced math skills, but you will be taking away from the reason they have been given the problem. This suggestion has been very helpful for parents who often want to solve problems algebraically when their children are not ready for it.

4) If they are "stuck", suggest that they call a friend.

5) Encourage your children to value and use their own approach to solving the problem even if you think that there is a "better" way. With this I am not saying that you shouldn't share your way with them. Just avoid putting down your children's way of solving problems by telling them that your way is better.

6) Encourage your children to write down their ideas and to make pictures and diagrams as they explore the problem. This ensures that even if they cannot find the answer to the problem we will know how to start helping them. Also, writing may clarify their ideas and help them to take the next step.

7) Ask questions like:

  • What kind of answer do you expect? (after the students read the problem)
  • Is that answer reasonable? (as they start getting answers and especially if they have been using a calculator)
  • What do you think this problem is about? (at the beginning of the problem solving process)
  • What do you know that you can use in this problem? (especially if they are having trouble solving it)
  • How can you organize your approach to this problem?
  • Could this problem be connected to what you have done in class today?

8) Suggest that they talk to their teacher for additional help.

9) When they say they cannot do the problem, ask them to be specific about which part of the problem is confusing them.

10) Suggest that they proofread their work to make sure that it makes sense.

11) If you feel your child is using a calculator in a mechanical way (as for multiplying 3 times 10) suggest the following: "You can use the calculator 5 times (this number will change depending on the assignment) in this assignment." This will encourage your child to think about whether it is worth using the calculator or not, will promote wise use of the calculator, and will help your child develop number sense.

12) Do not let them spend too much time on their math homework unless they are enjoying it and can afford the time (in my classes, students have between 30 to 45 minutes of homework a day).

13) Help your children learn how to value their own time. For example, spending time copying their work is often unnecessary because the first draft may be legible. Spending a long time just staring at the problem is unproductive. Your child may need help in learning to recognize when they need help.

14) One of the goals of my teaching is to help students feel good about their ability to do math, so please try not to let family members pass on their own math anxieties to your children!

15) There might be days in which they are unable to complete the homework. As long as the teacher can see how they thought about the problem, their homework should not count as missing.

16) Encourage your child to present the teacher with a homework that says, "This is the best I can do."