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Are you looking for an easy way to help your child get through middle school or high school math homework with a smile and newfound confidence?
If you’re a teacher, consider emailing this to your students’ parents, or sending home a link to this post for families to use.
For additional tips, read my last post, Supporting your child through middle school and high school math.
In middle school and high school math, homework time can be a tricky rough patch to get through each and every evening. You want to provide enough adequate support, but if you didn’t study math in college, or use it in on a daily basis in your career, those math memories can become fuzzy.
You might not remember enough secondary math for yourself, let alone enough to help guide your child.
You can only understand so much by rereading their notes and textbook chapters. Luckily, with today’s technology you have access to awesome math learning tools right at your fingertips! (Bonus: these are all free to download!)
1. IXL- Math and English
This app gives in-depth and interactive explanations for so many concepts! (Over 5,700 including English Language Arts.) You can master specific math skills by exploring awesome questions.
I love this app, because it connects to the Common Core State Standards. If your child’s teacher organizes the curriculum by standard, all you have to do is go to the correct grade and scroll down to find the standard.
This app is a must-have if your child is in an algebra course. It’s basically just a calculator for algebraic equations; it’s perfect if you or child gets stuck on a problem.
It’s simple to use. All you do is plug the algebraic problem (ex. 5x + 3= 28), and it’ll quickly provide you with step-by-step solutions. It even gives you a graph of your solutions and solves linear and quadratic equations!
3. Khan Academy
I have been a huge fan of Khan Academy for years! Their tagline is “You can learn anything.” And it is so true.
They have over 10,000 videos and explanations in math, science, and more. Simply search the math concept you’d like to master. The concepts are also aligned with the common core.
Stuck on a problem? Just snap a photo of it with this app! It can read problems ranging from arithmetic to calculus. It shows step-by-step solutions and graphs equations.
5. GeoGebra Graphing Calculator
If your child is taking Algebra I, Algebra II, High School Geometry, Pre-Calc, or Calculus, you should probably just go ahead and download this now. GeoGebra Graphing calculator allows you to easily graph functions and equations, and find special points. Additionally, you can save your work to go back later, and share with friends.
6. Quick Math
Need to brush up on your arithmetic? This addictive and easy-to-use app improves your arithmetic skills through speed and repetition. Warning: you may not be able to put it down!
7. HMH FUSE: Algebra 1
If your child is in Algebra 1, look no further. This award-winning app provides you with engaging curriculum all about Algebra 1.
It gives every student a personalized learning experience.
8. Learn Precalculus and Calculus
This app is perfect for guiding yourself through precalculus and calculus, or if your child seems to be falling behind in class.
It offers quick videos and even an AI coach to guide you through the learning!
Don’t forget to pin the post to save this page for later! You’ll remember where to go when you need this to get through the next rough patch of math homework. For more support, check out this post as well: Support Your Teen with Math
11/17/2018 6 Comments
Tips to Help Your Own Parent-Teen Relationship Navigate the Tears, Frustration, and Challenges of Math Homework
It’s no secret that math can be a daunting subject, and the source of most homework stress for teens (and their parents!). When I think back to middle school and high school, I can recall late nights at the dining room table, with my dad peering over my shoulder trying to help me with calculus homework or study for an upcoming algebra test. It’s wonderful to have supportive, helpful parents, but how much help is too much help? And how can the parent-teen relationship best navigate this challenge!?
My dad was amazing at Algebra, but it still is just so hard to work together as teen and parent when there is such a high level of frustration! Years later, as a parent, I am still at the level of preschool math homework, but as a big sister, I’ve been there and done that many times.
I ended up being the best one to help my little brothers sometimes with math homework, because as they navigated the teen years, I was someone OTHER than the parent. I was able to be more patient, and was just the right blend of adult and peer. I live a few hours away from my brothers now, sadly, but they still sometimes call for math homework help. I’ve now entered the era of texting pictures of math work back and forth to my one math teacher brother instead! The last one had a lot of diagrams back and forth with Law of Sines and Cosines arguing over whether the triangle was impossible. (math geek trig text convos for the win!)
When your child is near tears (or actually in tears) from frustration, it can be hard to hold back from “holding their pencil” in math. On the flipside, you may be apt allow your child to figure it out completely on his or her own, increasing independence and confidence in math.
On the other end, I know teachers have just as much frustration when a student does perfectly on homework, but clearly doesn’t know the content on tests without help from mom or dad. OR when they could really use some parent intervention, but they aren’t stepping up.
So, what is the right path in all of this?
It’s an ongoing balancing act. A great math education does include parent involvement, just not too much. I’ve laid out some do’s and don’ts when it comes to supporting your child through middle school and high school math. Teachers, you can use this information to educate the parents of your students. Feel free to pass on the link.
1. Do focus on the how
First and foremost, instead of drilling your child with steps and math facts, make sure they understand how the problem and solution works. Show him or her how to focus on concepts rather than procedural knowledge. This might help some children approach and solve problems in a new, different way—one that makes more sense to them.
Ask your child to explain a problem on the assignment using his or her own words. Encourage him or her to elaborate by asking questions focusing on the “why” of the problem, by asking questions like, “Why does this work?”
According to The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “Shifting the focus in math class away from answers and toward methods has huge implications for student learning. It prompts teachers to plan lessons around deep mathematical ideas and to ask questions that get students’ reasoning in focus. It encourages students to develop or try new strategies. It can even get students asking their own questions and justifying conjectures that hit at the heart of mathematics. To really help our students “get it,” I’d choose methods over answers any day.”
But even more importantly than the “how” of the actual lesson content, teach your teen how to get the information he/she needs!
Teachers do not expect you to know how to solve their math problems at this level. When we ask for support at home, what you can really do that is most helpful is guide them with questions such as:
“How can we find this topic in your notebook?”
“Who might be a good reference to help us here?”
“What can we find online that will offer some sample problems that we can look at together and break down?"
“Would taking a break help, and then we can revisit this with a fresh look after a snack?”
“Wow you are feeling really stuck here, huh? Can we find a video of someone explaining it in a different way?”
2. Do admit if you don’t fully understand
It’s important for your child to understand that it’s ok to not know the answer. (This can help your child overcome math anxiety.) What’s not ok is giving up. Show your child ways he or she can be a problem-solver. Can you find help by analyzing a previous problem? Or flipping back in the textbook? Or in your notes? Or searching on Youtube or google? There are so many strategies you can teach your child, just by being a good problem-solving role model!
3. Do encourage your child
Do your best to always be positive and encouraging. Even if they come to an incorrect answer, find logic in their thinking.
So often, the root of the problem is a feeling of being discouraged, or a deeper level of stress. Do you notice anger, tears, avoidance, or even outbursts? These are signs to be aware of - Check out tips for math anxiety here.
4. Do your own research beforehand
If you do want to dive deep and actually work together on the math content as more of a tutor role, do a little prep work. No matter how great you were in math, it’s been a while! Even as a math teacher, if I am working with a student or class on lesson content that I have not seen in a while, I have to review for myself beforehand.
The tutor-style parent role is not for everyone. Do not feel the need to learn your whole course of Algebra over again. But if you find yourself wanting to really do this alongside your child, and your relationship supports it, go ahead!
Instead of wasting time and trying to learn a new concept along with your child, either take a few minutes to learn beforehand or go into a separate room. I suggest searching on youtube or Khan Academy; you can find some helpful videos.
This way, you can be an efficient guide in your child’s learning.
5. Do look at your options
Do you have a babysitter, neighbor, aunt or uncle, cousin, grandparent, or other person you can pass this off on? If your particular parent-teen relationship does not do well with this daily challenge, you can save everyone from a lot of extra stress and frustration by asking someone who cares about your teen to take over here. Can they do daily homework over a facetime call with a godparent? Can they walk to a neighbor’s house and work through this each day with someone who may be retired and happy to spend the time?
Often, there are people in your teen’s life who would love to help out! And it can be a much smoother process that way. For some parents, letting this go can improve the relationship with your teen so much! Spend your hour together each night doing something you enjoy once they have finished their homework outside of your view. Suddenly, your evenings together are much more pleasant!
6. Do make it fun and creative!
Have you tried doodle notes for your child to use as a review? This is a way that they can incorporate their own creativity. This visual, interactive method boosts brain processing to increase focus and memory.
1. Don’t just do it for them
I’d like to think to this goes without saying, but sometimes parents forget or don’t even realize what they’re doing. Parents have to push aside the instinct of doing the solving, even though it might be easier or quicker. It’s just not helpful for your child.
2. Don’t show frustration and confusion
It’s ok to admit you don’t understand, but try not to show signs of frustration and stress. Instead, show your child how to focus and overcome that frustration. Yes, this is hard!! We may have had a rough day as a parent, and then have to deal with the attitudes that come out over math homework. It is tough! Take deep breaths, stay calm, and be an effective problem-solver.
3. Don’t over-emphasize that there can only be one correct answer
Many times in math we focus only on whether the answer is correct or incorrect. Of course, your child will be right or wrong, and the answer matters. But try to praise the steps that are correct, and the thought processes. Sometimes even with an incorrect final answer, the student is 98% there on understanding.
Almost all math teachers grade based on partial credit. A five-step problem that has all the work correct, but a small mistake that results in a incorrect answer will often earn a 4/5. Try to keep that in mind on homework as well. The successes are worth celebrating! Be sure that your child feels the positivity of each part that is right.
Remember that ultimately it’s more important they understand the process. In the book, Making Sense: Teaching and Learning Mathematics with Understanding the authors argue that math is a subject with a right answer, but that students can intuitively create their own strategies for solving problems. They encourage teachers to frame their teaching around student-created strategies. “Engaging in open, honest, public discussions of methods is the best way to gain deeper understandings of the subject”
Want to feel more equipped to support your student?
Download these 8 free apps that will help you help your teen through math homework.
I hope this post helps you, either as a parent or as a resource to pass on to the parents of your students. Teaching math oftentimes requires parent involvement, and with it we can make math more engaging, meaningful, and effective! Chime in below with comments if you have insight from either the parent or teacher perspective (or tutor, sister, etc.)!