Helping Your Child with Math Homework

Math homework has been a challenge for families at least since the “New Math” curriculum was introduced in the 1970s. With math standards and curriculum changing in recent years, many parents are discovering that how they learned to do math is no longer how it is being taught. That frustration helped one Ohio father’s Facebook post go viral.

Recently, Chicago Parent shared three key pieces of advice to help parents help their child with math homework. These are:

  • Stop Teaching the Tricks: Teaching math has changed from following rules and algorithms to building an understanding mathematical concepts and reasoning. Teaching the “trick” that you were taught can undermine building that math foundation. Instead, have your child teach you how they were taught to solve the problem.
  • Stop Worrying About It Being Correct: Math homework is no longer just about applying the rules that were taught that day in class to several additional problems to learn the process by rote repetition. Homework now helps teachers understand what their students know and where they are struggling. Shift the homework focus from getting the right answer to working hard to solve problems. Mistakes and failures are an important part of building a growth mindset.
  • Stop the Negative Math Talk: Children look up to parents for a lot longer than their parents think they do. When you talk about being bad at math, your goal may be to create sympathy with your child and their struggles with math, but the message is that not everyone can do math, and that can make math an even bigger challenge for them in the future. Focus instead on how math, like anything that you are just starting out to learn, can be difficult, but that the harder and longer they work at math, the better and easier it will become.

Check out the full article for more information on helping your child with their math homework in a productive manner. Illinois PTA also has several additional articles on families and math here on One Voice Illinois:

New Hour of Code Activity from National PTA & ThinkFun

Computer Science Education Week begins December 4th, and with it comes the Hour of Code program that Illinois PTA has covered before. We’ve also covered the importance of computer science education and computational thinking for students.

This year, as part of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative, program partner ThinkFun has created an Hour of Code activity called Robot Repair. The activity uses fun puzzle solving to teach Boolean logic, a type of algebra that uses only TRUE and FALSE (or 1 and 0 in computers).

The activity has been approved as an official Hour of Code program and is available directly from the link above or through the activities list at Hour of Code. It can be done at home, or as part of a PTA Hour of Code program along with other exercises. If your PTA is considering an Hour of Code event, keep in mind that there are many activities available from the Hour of Code site that do not require an internet connection or even a computer or other device.

New Parent Guide on Education Data

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a dramatic change from the law it replaced, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). An important part of ESSA, as well as Illinois’s plan to implement the law, is the use of data to inform policymaking, to help teachers improve student achievement, and to aid families in supporting their child’s education. National PTA, in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign, has created a Parent Resource on Education Data.

The guide, a short one-page document, provides:

  • An explanation of what education data is
  • Examples of what data ESSA requires states and schools districts to collect and report
  • Questions to ask your school and district leaders about education data, how it is used, and how it can help you support your child
  • Information about how education can and can’t be used and who can access it

Be sure to read and share the Parent Resource on Education Data. PTAs should also consider working with their school or district to put on a workshop to help families understand education data and how they can use it to support their child’s education.


Parent Guides for the New Science Standards

You may be familiar with PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which highlight what your child will be learning in Math and English/Language Arts from kindergarten through high school. During the 2016-2017 school year, Illinois required the use of its new science standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Now the NGSS developers have created a series of parent guides to help families support their child’s science education. The guides cover what students will be learning in the four key areas of physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and engineering design. The guides also give concrete examples of how the science students learn under the NGSS focus more on hands-on investigation and less on rote memorization. The guides are available for the following grades:

Check out the guide for your child’s grade level to learn more about what they will be learning in science and how you can help support them. Illinois families should also be aware that while the state conducted science assessments in both the spring of 2016 and 2017 for grades 5, 8, and 11, neither of those assessments have been scored due to the lack of a state budget. That means that families in Illinois have not seen how their student is doing in science since the ISAT science assessment given in spring 2014.