The 7 Questions You Must Ask to Bring Peace to the Maths Homework Wars

MATHS INSIDERS blog (5)

Creative Commons License photo credit: ViaMoi

Do you dread the days your child has maths homework?

I’ve written before about what to do when your child just wants to rip up their maths homework, and about 5 websites that can help with maths homework. There’s plenty of sensible advice on how to help your child with homework, but in reality, every child will have their individual learning style. Ask yourself these 7 key questions to help you and your child bring peace to those maths homework battles.

 Where is your child doing their maths homework?

Conventional wisdom states that kids need a quiet and calm environment in which to do their homework, but some children just aren’t conventional. As I write this post, I’m alone in the house – peace at last, and I’ve just turned off a really interesting but distracting video that was playing on my laptop. However, usually as I work, I have a house full of children bustling around and making demands, and it’s likely that your child’s maths class is the same. The key here is to try different locations, a quiet room, a busy family room, at a friends house’s at the library and see what works best for your child. Even then, changing location occasionally can often add some motivation.

Where are you when they’re doing their homework?

My preschooler likes to have me sitting directly next to him to admire his work, but even one of my older kids likes me to sit with him if his work is especially hard. Of course, as busy parents, it’s sometimes difficult to be on homework duty when there’s so many other things to do, so moving your child to your office, the kitchen or the garage to do their homework while you get on with your work means that you’re there when they need you.

Are you doing the homework for your child?

It’s tempting to momentarily ease your child’s maths worries by “over helping” them with their homework. You don’t need to be actually writing down the answers for it to end up with you having done the homework for your child. Try to get your child to do most of the talking when you’re helping them. When I ran a Kumon centre, I would get stuck students to go back to a question that they’d managed to do successfully and explain how they did it. If that worked, I’d then get them to re-read the problem question, then tell me what they understood or could write down. Don’t be afraid to tell your child that you don’t understand the work and can’t help them. Write a note to their teacher saying that your child needs help with that particular piece of work.

Do you know how your child feels about maths?

As a parent you’ll have a general idea of whether your child actually likes maths or not, but it’s worth talking to your child regularly about how they feel about their maths teacher, the current topic, and what they like or don’t like about maths. Take a look at  “How Confident is Your Child at Maths? Take the Quiz” which will lead you and your child to several links for both maths-phobes and confident mathematicians.

Has your child memorized their maths facts?

Maths homework is always going to be a drag if your child is struggling with the basics. Imagine being asked to drive a racing car if you haven’t yet learned how to drive. Don’t assume that your just because your child is a teen, that they are confident with basic arithmetic. My guest post over on the Math is Not a Four Letter Word blog “How to set up a Times Table Bootcamp”, gives actionable tips for middle and high schoolers who need to get back to the times tables basics.

Are you bringing maths into everyday life?

I recently wrote about some great non maths websites that expose your child to the real life uses of maths. Look out for the maths in your everyday life, such as making gift choices, grocery shopping, balancing a budget, and share these examples and problems with your child. Maths can be found in sports and entertainment, see this cool guest post: Keeping it Real: Mental Maths Questions Your Teen Will Actually Want to Answer as well as in the dry pages of their maths textbook.

Can you make maths fun for your child?

Maths Homework may not always be fun, but if there is an opportunity to do some fun maths, then seize it! If your child needs to do a survey and draw a chart, drive them to that busy shopping mall to get responses and pull out the glitter pens to make their survey shine. If they have to practice their times tables, use some if the tips from 31 Ways to Practise the Times Tables and pull out the playing cards or stage some maths races.

Tackling these 7 questions will set you and your child on the path to calmer maths homework sessions. Your child’s attitude to maths won’t change overnight, but keeping these questions at the forefront will help you both find a truce in the maths homework wars.

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 “The 7 Questions You Must Ask to Bring Peace to the Maths Homework Wars

  1. These are very important questions to ask ourselves as parents. It is often easier to just blame the child for not wanting to do homework but we can play a powerful role in how are children perceive any academic activity.
    To learn about 10 steps to helping your child to have ‘Happy Homework Hour’ in maths or any other subjects, read my article at ezinearticles.com here: http://bit.ly/vRHRC3

  2. Hi,

    Have you also considered using apps on mobiles or tablets to help them learning or improve their maths ability? if you look at my link it points to an app called ‘Maths Bug’ that aims to help children from 8 upwards with mental maths skills. It has been tested in children, teens and adults and works.

    I think technology, if utilized correctly, can contribute greatly to the learning experience.