If there is any one force that can reduce an entire family to tears and tantrums, it’s a child’s math homework. We’ve all been there. We all have the scars to prove it. In elementary school, my son was pretty good at math, yet we still suffered some long, painful homework sessions. I had my moments of yelling, “Why does he even need to learn this stuff!” even though I personally love math and think it’s one of the most important topics we can learn.
Fortunately for all of us, there are some really great resources out there to help douse the flames of frustration:
Many teachers have a webpage set up either on their own or through the school. At the beginning of the school year, always check to see if they have notes about the homework or links to resources for their particular curriculum and assignments. Sometimes the problem may just be your child misunderstanding the instructions or forgetting a simple step. If your child continues to struggle with a particular concept, their teacher may also have contact information listed on their site for you to reach out to them.
Kahn Academy is a free tutoring website with videos that both explain the concepts behind a given problem and that walk you through it step-by-step. They also allow you to experience their site the way you need to:
- Quick Reference: You or your child can watch a video on a specific type of problem to help right away without needing to create an account.
- Practice Problems: Most sections have a set of practice problems for students to try. They also have hints available and let the student try until they get the correct answer.
- Supplemental Education: Set up a free account for your child where they can keep track of their progress and earn badges when they’ve mastered a subject. For children under the age of 13, parents need to create an account and then create a “child’s account,” which will be linked to their own.
- Tutoring: Parents, tutors, and teachers can link to a student’s account to track their progress and see where they may be struggling.
Note: Kahn Academy also has instruction on common core — a life saver for those of us parents that are continually scratching our heads with some of the newer methods of doing problems.
Cool Math is a great website for younger kids to help themselves and have some fun. It has links to instructions, lessons, and games. There are also links for parents, including homework strategies and an overview of what the website teaches.
Purple Math is a good resource for older kids and parents. It has written explanations and some animated demos for several different math topics. I personally like to supplement Kahn Academy with Purple Math when I don’t have time to sit through a few videos.
Word problems often throw us all for a loop. If your child is struggling with a difficult one, and none of the above strategies are helping, try entering the exact wording of the problem in a Google search. I used this tactic as a last resort for many of my own math problems in college and found it helpful for figuring out where to start and for checking my work for errors. There is no guarantee that you will get the correct answer, but you can at least see how other people are working through the problem.
Tip: If your search doesn’t find any results, try deleting all the specific numbers from your search. Sometimes math problems are randomized, and you may find the same problem worked through with different numbers. Example: “If Sally had [blank] apples, and she found [blank] more, how many does she have now?”
Think of yourself as more of a guide than a teacher. Don’t take over for your child.