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Ways parents can help older students with math

MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2015 11:55 AM

When your kids were young, helping them finish math homework was easier - you know how to add and subtract numbers, so those worksheets were a breeze. However, once your kids are in high school, their work looks more challenging. From new vocabulary like sine and cosine to more complex equations, math has become difficult for your kids and you. What's more, you may not have seen math like this since your college days. Fortunately, you don't have to use math at work every day to have the knowledge to help your high schooler. Here are some tips and tricks for supporting your students at home as they learn increasingly nuanced math in their Common Core State Standards-aligned curriculum:

Talk to the teacher
Your children's teachers are a reliable resource, so make use of their expertise. Have a meeting in which you discuss what's expected of your kids, the topics they'll cover during the year and ways you can help. The teacher may have ideas for how you can be involved in your child's math education without doing too much work - students have to learn the concepts themselves. 

Ask questions
When your kids bring home a particularly challenging set of math problems that they're struggling with, you may not know how to solve the equations. However, you can still guide them through the process of completing their work by asking questions. Here are some that may get your children thinking critically and provide them with a way to approach the problems:

  • Have you reread the directions?
  • Are there parts of the problem you don't understand? What are they?
  • Can you explain to me what the problem is asking you to do?
  • Would skipping the problem and trying others first help?
  • Do you have sample problems you did in class to reference?

While asking your children questions about their homework doesn't directly impact their ability to do it, it does get them thinking. Perhaps suggesting to try other problems will give your kids' minds a break. Additionally, asking rather than telling students what to do lets them remain in control of their schoolwork.

Seek resources
If you can't directly help your high schoolers understand their math homework, you can see resources that will. Make sure that the tools you provide your teen align with their school's standards. For instance, if your kids learn under the Common Core State Standards, the resources you use should be aligned. That way, the help your kids receive will benefit them in all their school needs. A resource that is not aligned may teach techniques that differ or have a different focus than the Common Core provides - that just gets confusing for your kids.

Get extra aid
Your students might also benefit from working with a tutor, whether or not that person is a professional. For instance, perhaps your children know other students who excel at math. Those teens could help your kids after school. They can do homework together and use the resources you picked up to further aid their study time. You can also find an adult, trained tutor to give your high schoolers a boost.

Have them explain
Sometimes, teaching a subject is the best way to learn it. You might not recognize the math your high schoolers do, so have them teach it to you. Make sure they tell you what the math concept is (i.e., systems of equations) and give a brief description of what that means. Then, have your children go through a problem they've already solved step by step. Be sure to ask questions and get clarification. Then, go through a problem your students are struggling with. Hopefully, talking through the example will give your teens new insights.