Elementary Math Help
Are you wondering how you can help your child succeed in math? Here are some practical ideas for helping students with math homework and learning more about the strategies students are using!
Why does this math look different?
Computations are only one part of mathematics. Mathematics is also about communicating, making connections, and finding ways to solve real-world problems. We need students who can persevere in thinking about a problem and attempt a solution, ask good questions, understand that there are different ways to solve a problem, and communicate their solutions to others.
Some instructional methods you are seeing in your child’s math materials may be unfamiliar to you. These newer methods are helping students make connections to concepts they have already learned to strengthen their understanding before we move on to something new. Research has shown that making these connections is an important step in developing strong mathematics foundations.
How you can help your child with math homework
It’s important for your child to spend time thinking about problems and trying different things to arrive at a solution––even if he or she is struggling. Make sure they don’t give up too easily. If they are really struggling, praise their efforts and encourage them to try to figure it out––mistakes are okay because we learn from them. Research has shown that children often better retain what they have learned after continuing to think about a problem, even when they wanted to give up.
Rather than trying to show your child how to solve a problem, encourage him or her to try each one. Ask guiding questions that get them to take time to think about the problem and make connections to what they already know. Below are some possible questions you might ask.
- “Your solution is really interesting. Explain to me what you did.” (If your child says “I don’t know,” say “Well, tell me what you do know.”)
- “How did you decide what strategy to use?”
- “Can you explain this part more specifically?”
- “Is there another way to solve the problem?”
- “What is the problem about?”
- “What is the problem asking you to find?”
- “How is this related to the problems you have been working on in class?”
- “What information is important? Why?”
- “Can you draw a picture to represent this problem?”
- “What have you tried? What steps did you take?”
- “What could you try next?”
If desired, write a quick note or email to your child’s teacher (or have your child do it if he/she is old enough) describing the problems your child struggled with the most and how much effort they put into the assignment.
Where to learn more
Each lesson in Ready includes a Family Letter explaining the mathematics concepts being taught that week. Read these letters and do the activities on the back with your child, as time allows. Please contact your child’s teacher if you have not been receiving these letters or would like extra copies.
Mathematics educator Graham Fletcher has developed some short videos that provide easy to understand explanations about the different strategies and models used in K–5 mathematics. These short, engaging videos show how learning progresses from one grade to the next and explain less-familiar strategies.
The series includes these videos (each video is less than 5 minutes in length):
We hope this information is helpful!