If you've ever had to help your child with math homework, you really appreciate their teachers, who do it every day. "Math anxiety" isn't something only kids experience.
Maybe you haven't seen an algebra formula in years, and weren't that comfortable with them when you were a student. Maybe you're a skilled mathematician, but don't know how to explain what you're doing to a child. Whatever the case, math homework can leave parents feeling every bit as frustrated as their children. Homework doesn't have to lead to unpleasantness, though.
What I've learned through my own experience—as a teacher, a researcher, from helping my own children, and now watching my daughter work as an elementary school mathematics teacher—is that communication is (excuse the pun) the common denominator when it comes to making math homework a positive experience.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), where I work, is dedicated to research. We support scientists across the country who study learning and education systems. But we're also teachers at heart. On lunch breaks in the past, a group of us gathered to help our NSF peers with their own questions about how to help their kids learn math.
Here are a few tips from what we've learned:
- Try as hard as you can to understand what your child is saying. When your child is working out a math problem, ask her to think out loud, to say what she's doing and why. In some cases, your child might be able to answer her own questions. Don't just come in with an explanation of how things should be done.
- We've learned a lot about teaching. NSF-supported researchers and other scientists are producing findings that change the way we understand learning and how we teach. Math instruction today might look very different from when you were in school. Keep an open mind. If you're dismissive of something, there's a chance your child will be, too.
- Assume there is some logical thinking your child is employing. Even if he's producing incorrect answers, your child is employing some kind of thought process, and understanding it is the key to providing help. Let's say your child is adding 1/3 and 1/4 and getting 2/7. If his explanation is that he was adding the numerators and denominators, you've just learned that he might not fully understand what a fraction is. And that gives you a starting point for helping.
- Homework is about more than producing the correct answers. It's about learning processes and skills. Even if you can come up with the right answer to a problem with which your child is struggling, there's a lot you still need to explain—namely, how you arrived at that point.
- Become a teacher's ally. Talk to your child's teachers. Find out how they are teaching certain ideas and concepts. At times, parents unhappy about their children's struggles to learn can approach teachers from a place of frustration. View your child's teachers as your partners and collaborators.
- Find additional help. Worried you won't be able to understand the math your child is trying to learn? Take a careful look at her textbook or online learning materials. See if the publisher provides any resources. Look for other publicly available teaching aids, especially those that have had NSF support. Do you have friends or coworkers with children? Start a lunch group to talk through your homework challenges.
- Remember, every child is different and learns differently. Just because your oldest child learned his multiplication facts one way doesn't mean his younger sister will do the same. Which brings us back to the first tip: Listen to each child and do your best to understand.
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That math homework is H-A-R-D! The last time that you tried to do that kind of math, you were the same age as your kid.
And equally lost.
But your child need help, and you have no clue. Now what?
Check out these FREE websites for math help, grades K-12!
This is the BEST website, in my opinion. Not only can you learn about your child’s math homework, you can watch a video on it. Your child can also join their FREE learning program. It helps kids (and parents) to learn new math skills, or practice things they already know.
Ms. Munafo’s YouTube Channel
This teacher’s YouTube channel is simple, clean and basic. Ms. Munafo explains all things fourth grade math using easy to understand language and visuals. She gives clear explanations, and shows several examples. Even if your child is past fourth grade, getting some insight on the easier things might help everyone learn more!
Check out this video on fractions:
This website offers FREE lessons from PreK-Middle/High School across many core concepts. There are visuals with clear written explanations, free worksheets, and ideas for games or activities. If you need something to print, this might be the place.
This is another great all-in-one website: concepts broken down, online games, free worksheets. Seriously awesome! I use worksheets from here in my classroom regularly.
This won’t help YOU explain math, but it will help your child get a good foundation in the basic skills (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing). Yes, it is a drill website, but I love it! The “drills” are set up like video games: fun and engaging. Kids are racing only against themselves or the clock. And students can’t move on until they have mastered the current concept. Plus, it’s FREE!
Free Math Help
This is more for the middle and high school crowd, and it’s great. The explanations are written out, so you could print out pages to serve as reminders. There are also visuals to help students understand what a certain kind of problem might look like.
This site covers students in grade K-6, and hits on the big concepts. It’s not so much explanations for parents as it is online practice for kids. Once you choose a topic, you can select a difficulty level (noted by the dots to the left of each option).
For kids (and parents) in grade 7-12, this is where it’s at. The front page has all the topics listed based on concept. When you click on a topic, like Factoring, it gives you a quick overview. And then walks you through the concept, step-by-step. With examples. LOVE this!
Also not a website to LEARN, but to practice. This is a great way to gamify tough concepts and make math a little bit more fun.
You might remember these for SAT prep or helping you through AP English, but now it’s so much more! These are definitely aimed at people with a good grasp of language. So, maybe not for your elementary aged child to read, but for you to read before helping your kiddo. The guides start right around when the math really gets tough: fourth/fifth grade.
Did I miss something? If your fav math site or YouTube channel is not listed, leave it in the comments!
As a bonus, all the sites listed above are FREE. Yes, FREE! And you can use them at home or (hooray!) in the classroom.
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Filed Under: Homework, Learning at Home, Math, Parent Tips, School Tips, Teacher Tips for Parents, Teaching Tips, Teaching ToolsTagged With: best free websites, best free websites to help parents with math homework, free websites to help parents with, homework, math homework, parents with math homework