Parents… you may notice that your child’s homework, or their approach to solving math problems, looks different than what you remember from when you were a student. It may feel like you have no idea how to help your child. How can you support your child if you are not familiar with the way your student is learning?

Why Is Math Different Today?

The goal of today’s math teaching is to help students develop a deep understanding of the math concepts, as opposed to memorizing the steps to solve a problem correctly, so that they actually understand why an answer is correct.

Many of us remember the steps to divide fractions: Keep the first fraction, change the sign from division to multiplication, flip the second fraction (reciprocal). I remember the steps as Keep, Change, Flip!  Personally, I am efficient and accurate with this type of math. I could do hundreds of problems accurately and feel proud of myself for doing so. I memorized the steps! Keep, Change, Flip! What more is there to know?

Today, students are taught to understand why and how the steps to solve a math problem work. Furthermore, they are encouraged to show their mathematical thinking with drawings and models and to explain their reasoning. While many of us were taught to get the correct answer to a math problem, today students need to understand why that answer is correct, then explain that in words and pictures. All of this leads to a deeper, more advanced understanding of the math concepts instead of just following steps without understanding why they are going through the motions as we were taught to do.

You may be able to easily solve ½  ÷ ¼ to be equal to ½ x 4 = 2. 

Your student will most likely need to understand that ½  ÷ ¼ is like thinking of how many groups of ¼ there are in ½. A way to show this using a model is:

One can easily see that there are two ¼s in ½! This shows that ½ ÷ ¼ = 2!

This may all be frustrating and harder for parents, but it is better for the kids!

How You Can Help Your Child With Math!

Parents want to help with math homework, but often they are confused about how their child is solving a math problem. This disconnect between a parent’s knowledge of how to solve a math problem and how their child is supposed to solve it for homework can be a stressful part of the nightly routine.

Don’t stress! You can still support your child’s learning in math. 

Generic Support for Math Homework

  • Support your child in doing his/her homework. You do not have to be an expert and do it for them! Ask them questions, i.e., Where do you think you should begin? What do you think you should do next?
  • Encourage your child to look at his/her notes and classwork to help solve the problem.
  • Make sure your child’s answers are complete; include labels, i.e., inches, apples, etc.

Regularly Relate Math to Everyday Life

  • Refer to money, quantities, and discounts when shopping. 
  • Talk about measuring ingredients while cooking.
  • Discuss calendar skills like counting down days to a birthday or holiday.
  • Practice Problem Solving. I only have one cup of blueberries and I need four cups to make a pie. How many more cups of blueberries do I need?
  • Talk about math in a positive way. Your attitude is contagious.

Utilize Online Resources

  • Kahn Academy  www.kahnacademy.org Hopkinton families search “Eureka Math Grade 3” (use whatever grade level you need) for practice and videos aligned to the district’s elementary curriculum.

Online Math Facts and Skills Practice 

If your child is still struggling, make sure to communicate your concerns with his/her teacher. Children benefit when teachers and parents work together.

Homework Academy Can Help!

Free up your kitchen table a few times a week and send your students to the Homework Academy offered by Hopkinton’s Education Station. Parents will feel relieved that their child’s math homework assignment is completed without frustration!

By Moira Motyka, Education Station Homework Academy Instructor and Former Hopkinton 5th Grade Teacher