20 Vital Questions to Ask About Your Child’s School Maths

MATHS INSIDERS blog (7)

Last week, while staring blankly at my Twitter stream looking for some interesting maths links on Twitter,  I discovered a really useful printable list for parents’ meetings:

Back to School Parent- Teacher Conference Questions

at www.schoolfamily.com.

The list has questions, such as;

“How is the school working to keep students on track and/or raise achievement?”,

“How can I stay aware of what my child’s assignments are?”

and

“Does my child stay on task well or need frequent reminders? Has my child been developing good work habits?”

The School Family questions are intelligent,  insightful, and important; as a parent, you would definitely learn plenty about your child’s education if you asked them all.

The list inspired me to put together my own list of questions to ask specifically about your child’s maths learning. However my list comes with the following warning:

Don’t ask your child’s teacher these questions all in one go!

Your child’s  teacher will want to hit you!

In the past I was a (non violent) school teacher, and now I am a pushy concerned parent. I can see it from both sides.

The fact is, you may not need to ask your child’s teacher all of the maths or all of school family’s questions at all.

Some of the answers can be found from:

  • The school handbook
  • The school newsletters
  • Your child’s planner/homework diary
  • Asking your child
  • Asking other parents

Even the questions you do need to ask the teacher directly, are better asked over the school year, and using a variety of communication channels (my son’s teacher gave us her private email address – how cool is that!)

So with my warning ringing in your ears, here are my list of 20 questions to ask your child’s teacher about their maths learning:

1. What information do they have from the previous teacher about your child’s maths? Also check your child’s reports from last year to see what their previous teacher wrote about their maths learning.

2. Did your child’s previous teacher give an accurate representation of your child’s maths ability to their new teacher? If the teacher over or underestimates your child’s maths ability, this could lead to problems later on.

3. Does your child’s new teacher know about all the maths successes and maths problems from last year? Building from previous work (with some revision built in) will help your child progress.

4. Is there any further information, I as a parent,can give them? If your child gets worried about tests or doesn’t yet know their times tables, let the teacher know.

5. How are the maths lessons structured? What is the mix of “chalk and talk”, maths investigations, group work, individual work, projects and tests.

6. How are the maths lessons spread through the week? There may be days with 2 maths lesson and some with none. Schedule some quick maths practise on those “no maths” days.

7. Is there regular mental maths practise? If there is, this will make it easier for you to encourage your child to practise their basic skills.

8. Are the children taught as a whole class? If so make sure your child finds the time and confidence to ask for help if they don’t understand the work.

9. Is there different work for higher/lower ability children? Find out which work your child is getting, and how the teacher decides when to change the level of the work.

10. What happens if my child finishes the classwork early/struggles to finish the work? Giving more of the same or less of the same will demotivate both the high and low ability child.

11. How many pieces of maths homework are given each week? Knowing this will help you schedule any additional maths practise or tuition.

12. How can I support their maths learning at home? What ideas does the teacher have, that you hadn’t thought of?

13. Are parents encouraged/discouraged from helping their child with their maths homework? If homework is used as a way for the teacher to assess your child, the teacher may want to know how much your child can do unaided.

14. If I help, does the teacher want me to write a note on the homework? If you have helped your child, let the teacher know that your child was struggling with that topic.

15. For days when my child isn’t able to complete their maths homework, what should I do? Will the teacher accept the work a day or two late,  or will your child have to stay in at break time to complete it.

16. If I want extra maths resources, can you provide them or do you have any recommendations? Some teachers have a supply of extra resources that they are happy to share with parents.

17. Is there a website that the teacher uses to set problems from that they can recommend to parents? Many of the websites that teachers use to find activities for their class may also be suitable for parents who want to help their children at home. 

18. Is there a website that explains the maths concepts that your child is studying this year? Apart from using Google or Wikipedia, is there a website which explains ratios for example, in a straight forward way?

19. Is there a tutor that the teacher can recommend if my child needs more support? Teachers often know of others in their profession who are good private tutors.

20. What are the maths curriculum topics for the term? This list can help you work ahead, revise or reinforce the maths work done at school. Also, when your child says, “Fractions? What are they?”, you can decide whether to worry or not!

What questions can you add to this list? Tell me in the comments below!

This post features in Works For Me Wednesday

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “20 Vital Questions to Ask About Your Child’s School Maths

  1. Good job! You have put up a very comprehensive list which many parents will find helpful.
    I particularly like Q13: helping your child does not mean doing the work for them. In the past I have helped my children with their homework and then written a note on their work, informing the teacher of the extent of the help. e.g. ‘X managed questions 1 to 5, but I had to spend 10 mins explaining 6 and 7’ or ‘X really struggled with this piece of work. Please could you follow this up in class. Thanks.’
    As an experienced teacher myself, I would like to take this opportunity to answer question 18 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools is a great site for explaining concepts in all school curriculum subjects, including maths from primary through to all of secondary. It is also packed with links to resources in other sites that anyone can use. Please take a look.

    • That’s a great idea to be specific about which homework questions you’ve helped your child with! Yes the BBC Schools website is a good free resource. I really like their material for Secondary students, BBC GCSE Bitesize as it’s also useful for parents who want to brush up on the topics and concepts that their children are studying. Is there an American equivalent that anyone knows about? I think Khan Academy is a great American free resource which teaches maths from arithmetic to calculus using You Tube videos.