Math Help For Parents With Young Kids March 13 2009

Help Kids Have More Fun with Math Homework

Parents often feel frightened when it comes to helping their children with math homework.  This is understandable.  After all, many of us found mathematics difficult enough ourselves when we were children and the homework was our own.  Now, decades later, when lessons in long division and algorithms seem to be a distant (if not long forgotten) memory, we are expected to unearth the dusty archives of our minds to help facilitate our children’s success.

Fortunately, helping your child with this important subject need not be the hopeless struggle you imagine it to be.  Long gone are the days when a dull and boring textbook is the only thing available to you as you assist your child and brush up on your own skills.  In fact, there are a myriad of resources available today to help, including everything from games to websites and beyond.

Read on and discover several easy ways to make the experience of math pleasurable for adults and children alike.

1.  Don’t Panic

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your child will sense what your own feelings are about the subject area they are studying.  This is especially important if you struggled with math yourself in the past.  In other words, if you give off the vibe that math is difficult and intimidating, your child may also learn to feel this way.

Instead of being fearful if you and your child don’t know how to solve a problem, treat it as a fun and interesting puzzle that needs to be solved.  Explain that you and your child are detectives ready to solve any mystery!

2.  Make Sure You Are Both on the Same Page

In order to give your child the appropriate type of math homework help, it is important to understand what concept your child is currently working on in class.  For example, while your child’s word problem may be easily solved using an algebraic equation you remember, it would be futile to use this method if your child has not yet learned algebra, and is only working on basic multiplication or division.

In order to make sure you and your child are focused on the same objectives, ask to see your child’s notes from class, or take a look at their class work.  This will help you understand what the teacher is expecting of your child, and will focus your help in the right area.

3. Determine What your Child Already Knows

Have your child organize all known information about the problem in a way that he or she understands.  This can be done by making a list, drawing a diagram or chart, or working backwards through the problem.  Have your child sort through this information and determine what information is useful and what is not.

4. Work in Partnership with Your Child’s Teacher

Try having periodic discussion with your child’s teacher to discuss the topics your child will be learning and ask for advice as to how you can best help your child reach certain goals.  He or she may be able to offer a number of ways that you can increase your child’s understanding of mathematical concepts.  Your child’s teacher can also help you monitor your son or daughter’s progress and let you know which areas need special attention.

5. Encourage a Love of Math Early in Your Child’s Life

There are many things you can do to give your child a healthy attitude about math from the beginning.  Start by reading your pre-schooler counting books and stories that involve numbers.  Also, demonstrate how numbers work in everyday life – count toys, food items, cars on the road, or whatever else you have at your disposal.

Provide your child with toys and tools that can be used as manipulatives so that your child gets hands-on experience with mathematics early on.   Try adding and subtracting using an abbicus, blocks, chips, etc.  Remember, many children are tactile learners and this hands-on approach will increase mathematical understanding.

The Math Activity Set: Addition & Subtraction is a great example of a hands-on activity set that makes solving and practicing math problems fun at school or home. Skills taught include counting, sorting, grouping, addition and subtraction. Includes: 100 Math Rods®: 20 yellow pictures rods and 20 red pictures rods, each with 8 different picture images; 50 number rods with 5 of each number 0–9; 10 math operation rods as well as a spiral-bound activity book, activity tray, dry-erase boards, washable dry-erase pen, crayon & eraser all stored in a durable, easy-to-clean soft vinyl binder.

6. Play Math Games for Kids

Math games like the Math Mat Challenge Games will have your child going wild for mathematical concepts!  The talking floor mat has fast and crazy quiz games that make practicing math fun. Listen to the equation, and then step on the right answer. The game gets faster as the score gets higher.  It features three games (counting, addition and subtraction) with two skill levels for even more challenges.

7. Use Learning-Based Math Activities

There are many wonderful educational tools available today that help your child reinforce important math concepts. Solving Math Problems Kids Care About, by Randall Souviney, is geared for children grades 4-8, and  focuses on making word problems fun.  This four-step problem-solving plan that shows how to work through mathematical problems systematically and without anxiety. Your child will learn how to understand the problem, design a solution strategy, carry out the plan, and evaluate the results as they develop their skills in finding patterns, graphing, averaging, estimating, and more. It includes more than 30 reproducible problem worksheets on high-interest topics with completely worked-out solutions.

The Problem-Solving Story Mat Kit is another math activity designed for word problems in grades 2-5 and provides practice in hands-on problem solving.  This product enhances student use of the language of mathematics.  The number and math symbol cards included in each kit facilitate the translation of words to numbers and symbols. This critical connecting step helps student’s bridge the gap between the concrete and the abstract.  It can be used with partners, small groups, centers, or whole group instruction.

8. Refresh Your Memory

There are many internet sites that are geared toward helping parents and teachers brush up on long forgotten math skills.  Sites such as, or will help you brush up on everything from first grade math to high school geometry.

9. Hire a Math Tutor

If the partnership between parent and teacher is not enough to keep your child from falling behind, he or she may benefit tremendously from the help of a professional tutor.  Math is an important subject, and one that will follow them on standardized test scores throughout their academic careers.  Tutoring may involve just the type of focused, individualized math help your child needs to get on track.  A basic internet search can help you find a number of tutor organizations in your geographic area.

10. Know the Difference Between Help and Interference

Always remember that at the end of the day, the responsibility for solving each individual math problem, and completing each homework assignment belongs not to you, but to your child.  While children with involved parents are certainly more likely to succeed in school, parents should not become overzealous in doing their child’s homework for them.  This is not only stressful for you, but is a disservice to your child.  Your role is to help them think in the right direction, and demonstrate the possibilities, but not to complete the work for them.  Remember this point, and you’ll both be on the road to success.

-Stefanie Boucher