I bet that “the maths used in schools today” probably looks quite different from the maths that you and I grew up with. This, in addition to many adults really not feeling that comfortable with maths anyway, might make you think that helping your child with homework is i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e. That is far from the truth. Let me share a few insights on how you can help your child with maths.
How you can help with maths homework
- Have your child re-read the directions to assignments they don’t understand or encourage them to tell you the parts of an assignment they are unsure of.
- Ask your child how the teacher teaches this skill or concept and if there are any notes or handouts that might help explain what to do.
- See if there are similar problems in the chapter or somewhere in the book. Use these examples to help. Or, look at previously assigned work.
- Encourage your child to call a friend from class who might be a good candidate in knowing how to do the work. Or, consult resources on-line that can help.
- Assist with drawing out the problem or making a model to help explain the problem. Show multiple ways to solve the problem to heighten understanding.
- Read the directions together slowly and do the steps one at a time. Have your child verbalize what each step is along the way.
- Review for tests, read through and explain glossary words, do practice problems together.
- Review homework and tests that have already been corrected by the teacher. Ask your child to explain how to do certain problems, etc.
- Talk with the maths teacher to see if there can be some additional help provided at school. There may a maths specialist who can help out, after school tutoring sessions or even summer school.
How you can apply maths to daily life skills
Let your child see as many real-life daily situations that involve maths as possible. These might include such tasks as:
- paying bills and balancing a cheque book
- using measurement when cooking or building things
- estimating (i.e., how much a cart of groceries cost at the supermarket when shopping with you; how much food to make for a party; how long it will take to do a list of errands; etc.
- determining how much money is needed to eat in the school cafeteria for a given week or month; how long it will take to save an allowance in order to buy a specific item; how many miles it will take to go from one destination to another when traveling; how many gallons of gas you can buy with so much money; etc.
- allowing your child to read the road map when you take vacations and to figure out travel distances, latitude/longitude, etc.
- having access to maths tools such as a calculator, compass, protractor, ruler, yard stick/meter stick, tape measure, a scale, thermometer, play money, watch, graph paper and measuring cups/spoons.
- ordering from catalogues or book clubs
- recording daily temperatures or height/weight of pets, siblings, etc.
- reading nutritional labels and packaging
- sorting and patterning
- finding and explaining numbers, graphs, percentages, sports statistics in news articles
- having a lemonade stand or other business and learning about sales/profits
- reading and discussing literature based on mathematical concepts
- making out a weekly/monthly schedule (You might find the homework calendar at Show My Homework helpful.)
- using maths terms (sum, total, difference, product, fractions, infinite, etc.) as much as possible in everyday speech
- playing guessing games (number of items, time of day, heights of objects, etc.
Maths games that reinforce number sense
There are many fun card and dice games that involve maths skills. Traditional games like checkers, chess, backgammon, monopoly, dominoes, and puzzles (manipulative and thinking skilled-based) apply maths skills and concepts. You can give your child a subscription to a maths magazine.
You can visit a learning shop or toy store, ask your classroom teacher, or go on-line to see which materials might be available to either make or purchase. You can also use flashcards (either home-made or purchased) for any number of maths skills from ordering numbers and counting, to matching fractions with their word counterparts; to learning maths facts; etc.
When taking family trips, you can play verbal maths games in the car. An easy game is to say a number and then count by that number up to 100. Everyone in the car can take a turn. So for example, if you start with the number “3”, then the next person says “6” and so on to finish counting by 3’s to 100. A variation of this game is to skip any number divisible by that number or has the number in it. So if you played this version, you would say “1”, “2” then (skip “3” and say “4”), “5”, (skip “6” and say “7”) … all the way to 100.
Your willingness to genuinely help will go a long way. Add in some patience and time, and your child will gain more confidence and skills in maths. Try some of these suggestions to help with homework. And, remember … you use maths every day so share some of these hands-on real-life tasks with your child. Throw in a few maths games now and then, and I know your efforts will a-d-d up.