You may feel that as a parent, you are at the mercy of your child’s teacher to make sure he or she is mastering the math concepts that are necessary to succeed in school. The truth is that you have a lot of power when it comes to giving your child the math tools they need. If you use all of the resources at your disposal and pay attention to the area your child needs help with the most, you can contribute significantly to your child’s math education.
The first thing you need to do is to stay aware of your student’s progress in math. Help make sure they are able to communicate clearly with their teacher about what they are expected to know for upcoming quizzes and tests, when the next test is scheduled, what the homework assignment is and when it is due. You can teach your child how to use a planner or calendar to write in what is expected of them, and check it with them daily until they develop the consistency that will enable them to keep track on their own. Once you are aware of their assignments, you will be in a better position to help them.
Homework is a necessary evil, possibly more so in math than other subjects. This is because math works to build skills that are reinforced through repetition. Because of this, the more your child is able to practice, the better chance he or she has to master the information. Many teachers assign only a portion of the problems in a section for homework. You can help your child complete the remaining problems in a section, or rewrite the problems using different numbers so that your student has extra opportunities to practice. Don’t forget to check to see if answers are available in the back so that you can check your child’s work. You may also be able to find extra practice pages, practice tests and review sections.
Once you have identified a weak area in your child’s math skills, you can write exercises that are designed specifically to work on a single skill. Isolate the smallest step that you can find and help your child practice that specific task until he or she has mastered it before moving on. You can find worksheets and other resources online. Check out sites like MathBuddyOnline that offer exercises designed by educators to help your child improve math skills on any grade level.
While you are helping your child, foster their independence by encouraging them to think through the answer. Encourage them to talk out loud as they work to solve a problem so you can see where they are getting stuck. If you aren’t sure how to help them solve a problem, talk with them about how they could ask the teacher for help. If they are very young, you may consider writing a note (or email) to the teacher, or calling the school during their conference period to discuss the problem with them. Older students may feel embarrassed to ask questions during class, so suggest other times they could come back for help, like before or after school.
If you can see what they are doing wrong, try offering help in the form of a series of hints so that you don’t give more help than they need to figure the problem out. Praise is an important part of this process. Make sure that your child feels successful during every homework session, and if you notice that they are beginning to reach a level of frustration, suggest taking a break, or back up a step to problems that are not so difficult. With a little patience and persistence, you can make a significant difference in your child’s math homework experience.