In households across the country, kids are going back to school, and with school comes homework. Often, children need homework help, but their parents don't remember enough about their studies—particularly arithmetic—to help out. This predicament is frustrating for both the parent and child.
The child feels that an adult should be able to do the math required of them, and the parent believes that the teacher should have presented the information more effectively.
The truth, however, is not so simple. The child often doesn't have the required information stored in their long-term memory. The entire purpose of homework is to have the child practice the work they did in school to transfer it from short-term to long-term storage.
The adult, for their part, hasn't used the information the child needs in a very long time. Often, the vocabulary is familiar but difficult to remember, and if they look up how to do the work on the internet, the child says that wasn't how it was presented in class.
So, what's the solution to this common issue?
This article will give you valuable tools to help your child with their math homework. Of course, math is a broad subject, and not every tip will work for every discipline, but hopefully, there will be something here to alleviate the frustration that homework can bring.
Our society makes it acceptable to say, "I'm just bad at math," but this sends a terrible message to your child that some are born with math skills while others are not, which is not backed up by any research.
The best math students are, unsurprisingly, those who put the most effort into it. We all have genetic differences, but anyone can be a "math person" with enough practice.
Instead, ask your child to bring home their book and go over the lesson with them. The textbooks are designed to explain the work so that it should jog your child's memory. At the very least, it will remind you of how the problem is solved.
Don't share whether you were good or bad at math—simply stay positive and assure your child that you will get through the assignment together.
Whenever possible, give your child real-life examples of math. For example, when you are at a restaurant, let them calculate the tip. When you are baking, let your child measure the ingredients. If you are putting down carpeting, let your child use a tape measure and estimate the area of the room.
By giving your child real-life applications for the lesson they learn at school, they will see the value that math brings to their ordinary lives.
Additionally, point out to your child when math intersects with your everyday lives. For example, if something is half off, remind your child that that means you are dividing by two. When you are purchasing something, show how money and decimals are related. If you are into fantasy sports, talk about how the various statistics are derived.
Math is a constant in everybody's lives. By helping your child see it, you will give them more respect for the subject.
Connect math to other subjects
Almost every child has a subject they like or excel in, and this is a chance to have them feel similarly to math.
For example, if they're a writer, stop them at a particular word count and have them use subtraction to calculate how many words they'd need to make a higher word count. If they enjoy reading, have them figure out the rate they read per minute. If they love history, ask them how many years ago an event they are studying was.
By using this interdisciplinary approach, your children will see that math is useful in various contexts.
Don't get caught up on calculations
Until third or fourth grade, students are learning to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. When we were growing up, usually, we were tested on the calculation following the logic that we won't always have a calculator.
Education is moving away from this idea. More often than not, your child will have a calculator on them. Most people have a smartphone with a calculator function that they have every day.
The other fact is that we don't just do calculations in a vacuum—we use them to solve a problem. Your children see more word problems because that's what they'll be using math for in real life.
Often your child's brain will be busy trying to understand the problem, and the calculation will just frustrate them. Allowing your child to use a calculator when they are working on word problems not only alleviates the frustration but teaches them how to use tools to solve their problems.
Let the child be the teacher
Take time every day to have your child teach you what they learned in math. Not only will this increase their attention, as they know they'll have to teach it to you when they get home, but it will also be an enjoyable way for your child to get homework done and then reverse the roles and teach you how to solve a problem.
Take time to understand the "new math"
Math hasn't really changed, but how we teach it has evolved. Take the time to talk to your child's math teacher or look through their book to understand how math is being taught now. Much of the emphasis is on word problems because your child will be encountering them constantly in life. By understanding how math is taught, you'll be able to help your child with their homework more effectively.
Make math homework fun again
How your child reacts to homework and whether they feel capable of the work starts with you. Stay positive and connect your real-world experiences to the math your child is learning, and homework help will go much smoother.