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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Math
Helpful Tips for Your Students’ Parents
Sarah Picard

Oftentimes parents want to help their children with math homework, but aren’t quite sure how to provide support. This is made especially difficult since the way in which math is taught in many of today’s curriculums is different from the curriculum used when the parents were in elementary school. When parents ask how they can support their children’s mathematical thinking, you can give them the following tips.

Nurture their awareness of math in the world

  • Point out ways math is used in their life (paying for groceries, measuring, counting, categorizing, telling time)

Provide your child with some tools at home

Support their independent problem solving

  • When faced with a mathematical word problem for homework, encourage your child to read the problem a few times so they understand what the problem is really about. Sometimes the hardest part of solving these problems is understanding the problem itself. Get your child to read and reread the problem. Visualize the problem and get the child to restate it in their own words.
  • Ask the child to think about the best way to solve the problem. Validate their first choice and support their independence by providing manipulatives or tools (see list above).
  • Ask them about their process while they are solving the problem and give them the time to make a mistake. Wait before you jump in to correct the child. If you jump in too soon, the child may not get the chance to notice his or her mistake and correct it.
  • When the child finishes solving the problem in one way, you could talk about other ways to solve the problem and use the tools to demonstrate how that other way works.

In late first grade and in second grade, practice one digit math facts (addition and subtraction) at home. Concentrate on strategies to learn the facts rather than memorization. Here are some strategies:

Combinations of ten.
4+6, 5+5, 7+3, 8+2, 9+1

Combinations of 10 Plus 1
4+7, 5+6, 7+4, 8+3, 9+2

Combinations of 10 Minus 1
3+6, 4+5, 5+4, 7+2, 8+1

2+2, 3+3, 4+4, etc.

Doubles Plus 1
? 2+3, 3+4, 4+5, etc.

Doubles Minus 1
2+1, 3+2, 4+3, etc.

Parental support is an important part of a child’s success in school. Whenever we sit beside a child and take interest in their work, we are supporting their mathematical thinking. Hopefully these tips will help parents become active participants in their child’s mathematical thinking development.

Do you have suggestions or questions about this article? Send me an e-mail.


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