Helping Your Child With Math HW: Some Don’ts and A Lot of Do’s

The struggle is real. Your child is frustrated, you are frustrated, and the homework you both have been working on STILL is not complete. Your child screams, “You aren’t doing it RIGHT…That’s NOT how my teacher showed me…I HATE math!”

Here are the 2 mistakes we as parents make. Since it is the beginning of the school year, let’s really make an effort to abide by these Golden Rules. These are followed by helpful hints to make it a successful year in mathematics.

Golden Rule #1 (Even if you dislike math A LOT) Never Ever say negative remarks regarding your abilities in math or about math in general. I cannot tell you how many Student Study Team meetings began with a parent saying, “Well I was never good at math”…That is your golden ticket for your child to say the same thing, and think it is okay to just give up. It is not okay. Would you admit that you couldn’t read? No. So just don’t say it. Don’t say the homework is “stupid” or disrespect your child’s teacher in front of her. The results will not improve her performance or her efforts in her math class. If you have a problem with the mathematics coming home or with your child’s teacher, discuss it with the teacher.

 Golden Rule #2 Do not do your child’s homework for her. I often tutor my family and friends. My favorite comment is, “I don’t get (insert child’s name) math homework. Can you come explain it to me?” Though I would love you (the parent) to understand the mathematics as well, you should not be the one doing the work. Your child needs to do the work, needs to struggle and figure out where he is lost, and needs to feel what it’s like to finally “get it”. That is the goal of the homework, not just completing the problems.

Ways to Help Your Child With Mathematics

  1. Set a schedule. Your child should do his homework at a regular time each day. My son’s schedule is crazy: Cross Country in the am two days, in the pm two days, and Youth Group one night. Yet the schedule is the same every day. Whatever time he gets home, he eats something (whether it’s a snack or dinner) then gets down to homework. He knows this is the routine, so there is no griping.
  2. Set a standard place to complete HW. It is a pain, but I like him to do his homework at the dinner table. He can spread out, and I am usually fixing (or cleaning up) dinner nearby to ask questions when needed. We have a side tray table with materials he may need (paper, calculator, pencil, colored pencils, etc) set up for him so there is no reason to leave the space.
  3. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage. The students whom I hear the most from aren’t the ones who got it the fastest. They are the ones who put in the effort, with me cheering them on through their frustrations and never giving up on them or their learning mathematics. It means the world to your child to know you are rooting for them to be successful (Even if they won’t admit it!).
  4. Give directives/Ask questions FIRST. Here is a list of prompts and probing questions to move you along.
    • Tell me what you are doing (or working on).
    • What did you do in class that was like this problem? Do you have an example in your notes we can look at? Let’s re-read your notes and see if that helps you remember.
    • Could we call someone from your class? (This is great with social media. They can facetime, Skype, Google Hangout, etc. Get your kids to make study groups from friends in their classes!)
    • Let’s look in your math book and see if the examples from the section you are working on will help us.
    • Does your math book have video tutorials? (Most do! Get the login and password from your teacher BEFORE a crisis!) Let’s watch it and see if it helps us understand more.
    • What did you try first?
    • How did you get that answer? Explain it to me.
    • What is the pattern?
    • What doesn’t make sense? Where did you get stuck?
    • Does your teacher offer tutoring tomorrow morning? Let’s get you there!
  5. Email me the math! Love to blog about math problems in REAL time!
  6. If none of this is helping, and your child has worked on her math homework for over 30 minutes will little (or no) understanding, STOP. I would email her math teacher and ask for advice. Explain the attempts made and where your child is stuck. Most teachers will be understanding and give her more time. If the teacher does not, request a meeting with just the two of you to discuss the difficulties your child is having and intervention options the teacher (or school) offers.

Good luck and have a great year support your child’s success in mathematics!

Helping Your Child With Math HW: Some Don’ts and A Lot of Do’s

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