While doing a math problem with my six-year-old recently during a classroom session for parents, I barked at her, “Just put the number in any circle.” She looked at me as if I was speaking a different language. Turns out, I was. Her teacher, who overheard the conversation, corrected me. The sum, she explained, goes in the top circle. Three circles form a pyramid and the bottom stack are for addition or subtraction while the top is for the total. I wrongly assumed order was insignificant.
For months, I had been baffled by “number bonds,” a way of expressing math in circles that my daughter had to complete for homework. I never bothered to ask the teacher how they work. Instead, I soldiered on, demoralized but thinking, ‘Surely, I can do first-grade math.’ I’m not alone in my confusion.
Related: Could you answer these Common Core test questions?
“If you don’t know how to do it, ask your child to teach you, to show you how it’s done.”
Denver teacher Lauren Fine
Parents across the country are trying to make sense of Common Core standards, a set of academic expectations that call for less focus on memorization and more focus on explaining how solutions were found and, in English, a deep probe of text.
Advocates of the program argue that the skills are still the basic ones we learned as children but in the new curricula developed around the standards, the questions are often presented differently. That often means homework, an age-old source of angst for many families, has gotten even more complicated. Parents, like myself, are trying to guide children through questions that make little sense to adults who were taught math using other methods.
Before you throw up your hands and walk away from homework – a recent study in Psychological Science found that math-anxious parents who help children on homework breed math-anxious children – experts say there are several strategies you can try that don’t require relearning arithmetic.
DON’T TRY TO BE A MATH GURU
“The most important rule as a parent is to make sure it gets done. I may not have time to do an impromptu lesson on math but I can make sure everything is completed,” said Jason Zimba, one of the three lead writers of Common Core’s math standards and founding partner of Student Achievement Partners, a group that helps teachers with the standards. “It’s about managing work load and learning accountability.”
Although the father of two gives his children, ages 6 and 8, math tutorials on Saturday mornings, he says a parent doesn’t have to be a numbers whiz when it comes to homework.
“The math instruction on the part of parents should be low. The teacher is there to explain the curriculum,” said Zimba.
Related: Think you know a lot about Common Core? A new poll finds you’re probably wrong
Phoenix mom Kari Workman learned this recently when her fifth-grader was wrestling with a multi-step math problem and whining, “Oh, this is so hard.” As soon as Workman tried to look at the problem, her daughter snapped, “You won’t understand.” Mom called a time out.
“She was so frustrated that listening to me was not going to happen so I encouraged her to walk away from the assignment,” said Workman who is also a teacher. After a quick break, the 10-year-old returned in a calmer mood and solved the problem.
TALK TO THE TEACHER
Not all children will find solutions on their own, and if they are repeatedly stuck, that’s a sign they aren’t getting something in class and it’s time to talk to the teacher, experts said.
“If they are struggling with homework, that warrants a deeper conversation,” said Denver teacher Lauren Fine. “Don’t wait for those parent-teacher conferences. Make sure you are in touch with the school.”
Another strategy, she said, is asking the child to teach you the concept.
“If you don’t know how to do it, ask your child to teach you, to show you how it’s done,” said Fine. Often, she said, the kids get it, but parents don’t.
“In the past, I might have sent home worksheets with 40 problems, now it’s a couple of problems and the student has to show multiple ways of how they solved the problem. That can be frustrating for parents because they just want them to get the answer,” said Fine.
Related: Why many students with A’s in math don’t major in it
The struggle seems to bubble in third grade, said experts, when the math becomes more sophisticated. “It’s when it looks more different. It’s not just counting beans,” said Bibb Hubbard, founder of Learning Heroes, a group for parents.
“In the past, I might have sent home worksheets with 40 problems, now it’s a couple of problems and the student has to show multiple ways of how they solved the problem. That can be frustrating for parents because they just want them to get the answer.”
Denver teacher Lauren Fine
She acknowledged that watching children work through challenges can be tough for parents.
“The one thing we can reinforce as parents is that it’s ok for children to struggle. This is hard work. It takes time and patience,” said Hubbard. She likens it to learning how to tie your shoes. “It’s really painful to see them frustrated and angry. But I’m not going to tie their shoes anymore because they are 11.”
TEACH WHAT YOU KNOW WITHOUT STEPPING ON TOES
It’s ok, Fine added, for parents to show students how to solve problems using the ways they were taught in school – such as carrying numbers – as long as they are stressing that there are other ways to solve them.
Cece Hallisey, senior director of raisethebarparents.org, a site that outlines the new standards and offers resources on how to navigate them, has overheard her husband doing this with their daughters.
“There is nothing wrong with them learning in different ways but I wouldn’t be stubborn about it. Parents can say, ‘Don’t be surprised if you learn it differently in school,’” said Hallisey.
Related: Memorizers are the lowest achievers and other Common Core math surprises
And don’t bad mouth the teacher or assignment, teachers say. Instead, when time is scarce and tension is high, find resources for homework help.
“It’s about saying ‘If I can’t do the homework with them, who can?’” said Fine. Her school district, like many, offers before-school tutoring and the library has after-school homework help. Friends, family, babysitters and neighbors are also good resources as are websites such as bealearninghero.org, which breaks down standards by grade and subject.
Some schools are holding workshops that teach parents about the math and writing standards that students are learning in class. Zimba says schools should be better at educating parents on the standards and how to best guide students through them. “I think more can be done on the parts of schools, state leaders and district leaders on communication,” he said.
In the meantime, he said, parents should take the lead.
“When parents are frustrated, it’s important that educators listen to them, but they can’t listen unless the parents talk to them,” said Zimba, adding, “Venting is one thing but if you really want to solve the problem the way to do that is to start with the child’s teacher.”
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.
Best Parent Pointers to Support 5th-Grade Common Core Math Homework
Nov 19, 2015 10115 views
Best Parent Pointers to Support 5th-Grade Common Core Math Homework
I hear the woes from parents and kids frequently about their struggles with Common Core Math. This change is not easy, the math standards are very different from when we were in elementary. Each grade brings its own challenges as the student is expected to expand their working knowledge of multiple math concepts that can seem very foreign to them and their parents. Fifth grade is no exception and usually presents some new concepts that sometimes baffle parents and leave the child extremely frustrated and stressed.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for both teachers and parents to know and understand what level the student is on in previous grades and where they are headed. We need and we must see the whole picture. My point is, what is being taught in the lower grades (first grade through fourth grade) enables the student to do quick mental math in their head, which frees their mind for harder, more difficult mathematic concepts as they enter fifth grade. It is necessary for your child to already have a basic understanding of addition, subtraction and multiplication facts because Common Core Math topics build on each other. If the child is already behind in math concepts in previous grades, there is a chance they will be behind in fifth grade too.
As a parent, what has helped me is seeing and reading examples of the Common Core Math standards. If I can understand the concept behind my child’s homework when they show me a diagram, number line or multiplication formula, then I can address the questions that my children have with math. If you or your fifth-grade child is already struggling with Common Core Math concepts, Math Goodies is a great resource for showing parents in detail the lessons that are being taught in fifth grade. The Common Core Math standards are broken down into several examples with graphics and multiple solutions of how your child can reach the answer. It has an easy format to follow so any parent can utilize it with their child.
I will give one such example. Rounding using a number line is a lesson of how the new standards require us to teach our students and children to understand the “why” in a way that is not at all familiar to many of us (I know it was not for me). However, I believe when our children understand and learn rounding this way, we have the potential to create a generation of more flexible mathematical thinkers, which could help our children progress in career fields like engineering, neurobiology and finance, just to name a few.
Navigating Common Core Math
From my experience when working with students who struggle in math, helping my own children at home, and through my observations in our schools, I have now have greater insight on how to help more parents navigate the Common Core Math homework struggles that seem to creep in around fifth grade.
Here are a few tips that I try to incorporate into homework time that may help you with your daily math homework battles.
Evaluate your child’s work
Check your child’s homework and help him or her redo problems if they are incorrect. If the numbers are illegible, ask them to recopy the numbers so the teacher can read their work. This exercise also helps with handwriting. Keep it lighthearted and not stressful, but explain the importance of turning in work that is readable and correct.
Brush up on some math concepts
In order to help your child, you need to understand some of the basic concepts he or she is learning. You don’t need to be a math professor to do this. There are many resources and websites available to help you learn the same math standards your child is learning like you will see here on Great Minds. It is a fabulous resource that has examples of all the Common Core Math Standards (grades preschool through eighth grade) and how they are being taught. This site is very easy to understand and utilize.
Provide proper tools
Provide a math folder that is separate from your child’s other homework, folders, or papers. This folder gives your child plenty of room to hold flashcards, notes and other math helps when they need it. Also, make sure there is a calculator available, sharp pencils and an eraser.
Help with organization
Disorganization leads anyone to frustration and stress. Poor time management can be a factor in causing your child’s lack of concentration, follow through, and poor learning skills. Help your child write a list after school. Post the list where he or she is easily able to view it. Go over what is due in the next few days or weeks and write what math homework is coming up in the next few days of the week on the calendar or add key dates on the teacher’s list. For example, if there is a book report due in three weeks, put the goal date and list what needs to be done every day to reach that goal. For example, read five pages a night to complete the book. For math homework, review flashcards for five minutes every weekday evening before bed.
Allow for natural consequences
Your student may not follow through with a math assignment or may forget to turn in his or her division homework. Allow those natural consequences to take place at school. Your child should be allowed to experience whatever the teacher deems appropriate for a consequence: a lower grade, having to redo a messy worksheet or missing out on a special reward. This will promote personal responsibility and self-reliance.
Common Core Math doesn’t have to be a terrible experience as your child gets older with the resources and tools available now for parents. There are many ways to make math concepts fun and enjoyable for any student.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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