Supporting Your Child In Math
Supporting Your Child In Math
Helping Your Child
Families and Caregivers Make a Difference
The support of everyone in a child's life contributes to her/his success.
As a parent, you are your child's first mathematics teacher. In fact, you have probably been doing math together since your child was very young. Counting pictures on a page and singing songs helped your child learn about numbers and counting. Building with objects such as blocks and cardboard boxes exposed your child to geometric ideas such as shape, size and symmetry. Chores such as putting away the dishes and sorting laundry engaged your child in sorting and categorizing, which are important features of data analysis.
Once your child enters school, it is important to continue to support their growing understanding of mathematics. There are many different ways to help your child learn and appreciate mathematics, even if math was not your favorite subject in school. You can help your child by:
"One of the most significant things parents can do is to help their children understand the normalcy and the value of struggle in mathematics. Learning math ultimately comes down to one thing: the ability, and choice, to put one's brain around a problem--to stare past the confusion, and struggle forward rather than flee."
Sutton, S. (1998) Beyond homework help: Guiding our children to lasting math success. ENC Focus for Mathematics and Science Education: Family Involvement in Education, 5 (3).
Doing Math Together
Expect Your Child to Work Hard and be Able to Learn Math
Many adults leave school thinking that mathematics doesn't make sense. The way they learned math did not always enable them to solve problems in efficient ways that made sense to them. When working with your child, keep in mind that children can make sense of mathematics if given the opportunity and support. Encourage your child to stick with a task even if it seems challenging. Be sure to talk through what the problem is asking and discuss some of the strategies that might be used to solve the problem. Help your child learn that there are many ways to solve problems.
"When parents and teachers alike believe that hard work pays off, and when mathematics is taught and learned by using all the strands of proficiency, mathematics performance improves for all students."
Kilpatrick, J. & Swafford, J. (2002, p. 21).
There are many different types of questions that you can ask your child. Try to use productive questions that promote mathematical activity and reasoning. Productive questions include: "What do you think…?" or "Why do you think…?" Questions such as these encourage children to develop ideas and test and defend their thinking. Other helpful questions include:
After you ask a question, be patient. Don't automatically give your child the answer. Instead, give your child time to think about the question and how s/he might answer it. If your child gives the wrong answer, ask how s/he got it. Probe to gain a better understanding of their thinking. Suggest alternate strategies that might help your child find the correct answer. Help him/her think about where their thinking went wrong. For example:
"How did you add the 7 and the 8? Sometimes, I start with 7 + 7 because I know that equals 14. Then I know that 7 + 8 = 15. What strategy are you using? Let's try it again."
Even if your child answers correctly, it is also important to ask why s/he came up with the solution and probe to learn more about their thinking.
"A good [productive] question is a stimulating question, which is an invitation to take a closer look, a new experiment, or a fresh exercise."
Harlen, W. (2001, p. 34).
Solve Problems and Explain Thinking
Encourage your child to ask questions and explain his/her thinking and do the same yourself. When you see a method that you do not understand, take the time to analyze and figure it out. Prove to yourself that the answer makes sense. In school, children will use pictures, symbols, diagrams, words and numbers to explain and prove their thinking. The ability to use different representations and mathematical tools are an important part of a child's growing understanding and ability to explain and defend their thinking. As children describe and compare their representations, their understanding of mathematics deepens.
You can model successful approaches to solving problems when you verbalize your math thinking and show your child your methods. By asking questions, making mistakes, and talking about what you think, children will see the importance of working through a problem and make connections with mathematics in everyday situations. Don't worry about using the same strategy that your child uses. In everyday situations, people have devised many different, effective ways to solve problems. What is important is that each person solves problems in ways that make sense to him/herself.
For example, when shopping, talk out loud about how you are figuring out how much money your items will cost or how much change you will get back. When building an object, sewing, organizing your closet, for example, think out loud and ask your child for his/her ideas to help you find a solution.
The three constituencies most affected by homework (parents, students and teachers) view it through three distinct lenses, leading to little surprise that homework is having a tough job fulfilling everyone's expectations."
—The Boston Globe, December 5, 1999
Homework is an important vehicle for communication between school and home. Through homework, teachers and families can share in activities that support students' growing understanding of mathematics.
The math homework you will see this year will include problems that will involve developing flexible and efficient ways to solve problems, as well as practicing facts and discrete skills through word problems, activities and games.
Our math homework will provide opportunities for students to:
Students will be encouraged to
In addition to the Students Sheets that children receive for homework, students may be assigned additional work that will include skill work.
For websites that will help support you as you engage your child in mathematics see: