## Talking to your child about math homework

November 22nd, 2013The following is excerpted and edited from an article by Bill Roberts in the *Idaho Statesman* dated August 25, 2013.

“Education is no longer about cramming facts into kids’ heads. It’s not ‘*6 times 8 is 48. Now remember it.*’ Students need to visualize numbers and understand those numbers in relation to each other as they seek to discover the answer. So a strategy hint for figuring out 6 times 8 might say, ‘*You know what 6 times 5 is …*’ Think of it as a question technique to get them to the correct answer.

The basics are still there. Kids need to know division. They have to be able to solve equations such as 2x = 10. We are still teaching good math. But how math classes are taught and how students are tested is undergoing a change that will affect how parents help their kids with homework and what students will be asked to do.

The goal is learning to go deeper into subject matter. Students will be asked to evaluate information they are learning by applying critical-thinking skills.

One of the greatest changes we’re seeing — and expect parents will, too — is continually asking kids **how** they do a task or **why** they think their answer to a question is right. It isn’t so much on the procedure of the math. It’s about thinking. How do I get this answer?

Students may follow different paths to answering a math problem. Parents should do the same. Don’t rush in with an answer. Don’t let kids think your way of solving a math problem is the only way. Instead, question your child. Ask them, ‘*How did you come to this answer?*’

Kids might draw pictures to show the answer, or combine numbers in a way that’s different than their parents learned. But educators believe the approach will help students get a better sense of numbers that goes deeper than memorization.

A goal is to put the learning into a real-world setting, something that will engage kids’ interests. Teachers often will have kids write their own math problems.

Teachers can see through student writing whether students understand the mathematical concepts instructors are trying to teach.

Student-written problems also tend to reflect students’ interests. An example of a student-written problem: ‘*I have 18 erasers. I gave some to my friend Kyle and now I have nine left. How many did I give to Kyle?*’ If they connect to what they know, they will remember.

Math homework won’t look the same, either. Teachers are not going to be sending home 30 problems. There might be only two math problems, but they will ask the students to go into more depth, by explaining how they get their answers and justifying their work.

Critical thinking is a key component as well. Teachers are no longer purveyors of information, but facilitators of the learning experience. They will try to bring ideas out of kids’ minds, not just shove them in.”

-Bill Roberts, Aug. 25, 2013

There are many ideas in the above article that speak directly to what we are trying to do with and for our students here at HIS. While we understand that this approach may not be familiar to most of us who grew up being taught how to get an answer in one way (the teacher’s way), we all need to adapt and adjust to the needs of this new century in which we live. Here at HIS we want our students to be critical thinkers and to be able to solve complex problems, something that does not come from rote memorization. We want our students to be able to explain both verbally and in writing their thinking process or how they came to their conclusions or answers. These deeper understandings and stronger communication skills will serve our students well both in higher education and in the workforce.

We will continue to work to increase both the quantity and helpfulness of our communications to you so that you can best support your child with her/his homework. Part of this evolution for all of us is allowing our children to struggle with the work and develop their higher-order reasoning skills so that they become independent, self-advocating citizens who persevere, believe in their own abilities, and know their own strengths and limitations.

To Parents from Pearson:

Encouraging Students to Think, Reason and Share Ideas

*In the Investigations program students need to take an active role in mathematics. They must **do more than get the correct answers; they must think critically about their ideas, give reasons **for their answers, and communicate their ideas.*

You can help your student develop their thinking and reasoning by asking questions such as:

Does this remind you of other problems you’ve worked?

What have you come up with so far?

Where do you think you should start?

What is the problem asking you to do?

Would drawing a picture help?

How can I help you?

How did you find your answer?

Why does that work?

Is there another way?

How do you know it solves the problem?

Over time, students become more comfortable thinking about their solution, recording it, and explaining it to others. Your interest in their thinking is a great motivator!

John Heffron, Lower School Principal