Helping With Math Homework

Many parents worry about helping their children with math homework, especially as their children get older and the mathematics becomes more complex. If that’s the case, here’s something you’ll be happy to learn: you don’t have to be a mathematics expert to help with math homework.

Providing a well-lit table and comfortable chair is an important place to start, but remember, the best location for homework is not necessarily your son or daughter’s bedroom. If your child studies at the kitchen or dining room table instead, you can help without having to sit down the entire time. You can assist when help is needed and still go about your own tasks. At the same time, you’ll have the opportunity to keep homework time focused by giving your child support, encouragement, and gentle reminders. A good strategy is to pass by your child’s work area and periodically “check in.” A quick glance will often tell you if it’s time to stop and provide some extra support. When it’s clear that your assistance is needed, sit down and give your child your full attention. Although it’s sometimes difficult, maintaining a calm demeanor and being patient can really help your child when he or she is struggling with math. Many parents worry about not knowing the math their children are studying. In this case, the way to provide homework help is actually quite simple: ask questions and practice careful listening. Simple generic questions can help your child gradually make sense of math, build confidence, and encourage mathematical thinking and communication. When given the opportunity to talk about math, children are often able to remember what they learned in class and see the solution themselves. A good question can open up your child’s thinking about the problem at hand. Here are some useful questions for parents to try. Remember that listening to your child’s answers—and providing calm responses—is as important as the questions you ask.

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California Mathematics Council, the Sonoma County Office of Education, and the California Math Project: North Coast 

  • Can you tell me what you know now? What math facts do you have?
  • What do you need to find out? Can you estimate the answer?
  • How might you begin? What can you try first?
  • Can you make a drawing or picture to get started?

  • How can you organize your information? Will a list or table help?
  • What would happen if …? Show me what you did that didn’t work.
  • Can you explain the strategy you’re using to solve this? Why did you …?
  • What could you do next? Do you see any patterns?

  • Does that answer make sense? Why do you think that?
  • How did you get your answer? Why do you think it’s right?
  • Convince me that your solution makes sense. Explain it in a different way.

Good students solve math problems they find in school, at home, and in their daily life. Using mathematical modeling, they work with numbers to find real-world solutions. They make drawings, create diagrams, and build physical and computer models of the problems they encounter. When possible, they write equations that model situations.

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