Jason Zimba shared the struggle of helping their children on weeknights in spite of the busy schedules of the family members in his article “Can parents help with math homework? YES”. His article is encouraging for the hopeful parents who really want to help their children with their academic progress with his indications that such activities as flash cards, games, or just checking homework is a positive gesture to instill for the children the importance of success and gratification when they work hard in their studies.
As mathematics educators, others might think it is effortless for us to prepare activities, listen to our child’s methods for solving problems (even when we would do the problem differently), or sit down and check the answers in the homework. But I can testify as a mathematics educator that it all takes time, which I don’t have an abundance of, to prepare games, flash cards, puzzles or to check homework. In addition, it is also a struggle for us to listen, without interruption, while a child is explaining a process for solving a problem, particularly when the method is different from our own.
To help to expedite some of these responsibilities that might save the parents time and promote the child’s understanding of the math is to have the child prepare the flash cards. Certainly as parents we can check the cards, but the child can make the corrections and begin to memorize the material while working of the flash cards. Puzzles and activities in the child’s homework might get some creative juices flowing if the child is encouraged to make up a similar activity and then explain the rules to the parents. The child will begin to understand how important it is for directions or definitions to be clear. Some of this places the responsibility for developing and learning the material on the child.
But let’s not restrict the enjoyment of mathematics to homework assignments or puzzles that came from the classroom. Our jobs, games, and hobbies often involve mathematics as well. Sharing with the children where activities such as carpentry, sports, preparing spreadsheets, knitting, or cooking involves understanding measurement, fractions, formulas, proportions, statistics, or sequence characteristics. Families who play board games or card games are promoting logical or inferential thinking, as well as counting, probability, counting money, geometric relationships, or using percent. Teaching and sharing the function of mathematics in these pursuits will instill an appreciation and enjoyment of mathematics’ role in everyday activities.
Certainly our children need our support and sometimes instruction to complete homework and projects for school. We try to make reading fun by reading to our children or sharing enjoyable books. Science is often fun with minimal lab activities in our kitchen or backyard. Enjoying mathematics is in many places. It is just a matter of recognizing when we are using the math and sharing those moments with our children.