Homework in general isn’t something that most kids enjoy. From my experience as a teacher, tutor and Auntie, math homework is by far the worst! Parents and children often grow frustrated and stressed out when working on challenging math problems at home, and this is something that I can definitely relate to. When I was in elementary school math was by far my least favourite subject. I can remember countless nights sitting at the kitchen table attempting math homework with my dad by my side trying to help me. Despite his best efforts 9 times out of 10 the night would end with us both completely frustrated, me in tears, and my homework not completed. It wasn’t until nearly 15 years later that my mindset started to change and math started to become not so bad after all.
As a current teacher, I look at the curriculum and often think to myself that the content, and how kids are learning it, is so very different than what I remember as a child. Students in school now are taught multiple strategies and approaches to solving problems, whereas when I was in school (not really all that long ago) there was only one way to solve multiplication problems. While these changes encourage students to think outside of the box and provide them with more open-ended ways of solving problems, they can also be problematic when it comes time for parents to help their child with math homework. So, what can parents do about it? Here are some things that I wish my dad knew when he was trying his best to help me:
1. Make it Fun With Games
Before cracking open the textbook or starting on the worksheets play some math games with your child. It’s important to “warm up” your math brain prior to starting math work. Frankly, many students find it hard (and not enjoyable) to go from an unrelated activity directly into “math mode.” There are endless math games that can be played with cards and dice, which most households have on hand. Your child may know some math games to play, otherwise you can easily find examples online. Once your child’s math brain is warmed up and they’re feeling positive, then start on their math homework.
2. Build confidence
Stay positive, ALWAYS! Growth mindsets and positive feedback are essential for success. When a child sees that they can do something, they gain confidence in their abilities and are more open to tackling challenging problems. One very simple change that you can model in your day to day life is to avoid saying “I can’t.” Instead, add the word “yet” to this statement… “I can’t, YET.” This small little word can completely change how we approach problems, and this positive mindset goes a long way!
3. Let them teach you
It is entirely possible that the way your child is learning math is very different then how you learned it. It’s important to be open minded and willing to try new and different ways of approaching math problems. Encourage your child to be the teacher so that they can help you understand. When your child is teaching you be sure to listen carefully to their explanations, don’t interrupt, ask questions only when they are finished, and then you try it! By practicing together you are helping your child reinforce their learning.
4. Different strategies are OK
All students learn different ways and at different paces. It’s OK if they are still using their fingers or if they still need to skip count. While it’s important to encourage more efficient strategies you shouldn’t discourage the ones that they are currently using. Any strategy is better than no strategy at all!
5. Ask a teacher
If you and your child are still feeling totally lost, don’t panic! One night that homework doesn’t get finished is NOT the end of the world. Get in touch with the classroom teacher the next day by sending a note asking for clarification, and then try again the next night. Teachers appreciate that their students are getting extra help at home and sending a note back with an explanation and some examples is not too much to ask!
Article Written By: Nikkilee D.
Nikki has worked with hundreds of Scholars students, and has been an education coordinator at the Scholars Peterborough Centre for six years . Nikki loves to travel, and has experience teaching in Africa, Calgary and across Ontario.