The troubles they specified were varied and numerous (e.g., concern, frustration, bewilderment). They often included the following:
- I don’t remember algebra.
- I don’t like math.
- The way math is taught now differs from when I was in school.
All of these are certainly legitimate. Although people use math every day, even when they don’t realize it, they are not necessarily using all the same concepts they learned in school. And as the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’m sure some parents don’t know how to solve quadratic equations or remember what it means for a relation to be a function. And yes, how math is taught today may differ from when you were in school. But I promise you, the idea behind new techniques is to encourage students to become better problem-solvers, not to confuse parents or change the concepts. So, believe it or not, despite your fears and feelings of uncertainty, you can still help.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Get prepared. Teachers are excellent planners! Many of us provide students with a plan at the beginning of each month, week, or unit. Ask for the plan, and then do a little research. Sign up at Curriculum Pathways and gain access to 500+ math resources; then search for the key concept. For example, suppose using the midpoint formula will be in an upcoming unit. Simply type “midpoint formula” in the search field and check out the available resources, including a 6-minute tutorial. There’s even a short quiz at the end to test your knowledge.
- Be the student. It's been said that “teaching is the best way to learn.” Ask your child to explain concepts as she is working on homework. Allowing your child to instruct you on the steps or key ideas gives her the opportunity to verbalize her understanding and even point out any common mistakes. Graphing functions is a key mathematical concept. As your student explores the slope-intercept and standard forms of a linear function using Graphing Linear Equations, ask her to explain how the slope affects the graph.
- Encourage practicing and showing work. Practice is essential for many students to be successful in mathematics. While students are often willing to practice, many fight the idea of showing their work. Teachers, of course, encourage this practice, which helps students find errors. Check out the Practice Simplifying and the Practice Solving series. These tools allow students to work out problems and receive line-by-line feedback to catch any mistakes more easily. Elementary and middle grades students can practice their math skills and number sense with Math Stretch.
- Encourage self-testing. This has proven effective in helping students succeed. One way to help students self-test is by creating flashcards. These can be useful when trying to recall the numerous properties, theorems, or postulates discussed in class or to prepare for an upcoming test. Check our Flash Cards resource available on PC/Mac, Chromebook, iPad, iPhone/iPod, and other mobile devices.
- Encourage self-monitoring. With the Data Notebook app (available in the App Store), students can monitor their progress with built-in templates for mission statements, goals, checklists, plus/deltas, and histograms. Students can document assessment scores, observe patterns, and reflect on areas of improvement.
Check out other Curriculum Pathways math resources at to help your students.