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Help Your Child Be Successful In Math

A few years ago, then PUSD Math Coach Ms. Noemi Montaño Orduña gave a First Thursday presentation directed at parents. Her encouragement to Blair parents how they can help their children be successful in math is still helpful. Ms. Orduña is now a PUSD principal. She emphasized she cannot rely on her background as a math teacher to stay on top of how her own two children (Blair student and Blair grad) are doing in math. All parents can stay informed and engaged, and use questions to build their child’s problem solving skills. Here are suggestions from Ms. Orduña:

Identify Struggles

Look to see if key fluencies were mastered in previous years K-8, and review past areas of weakness. Don’t make your student’s anxiety rise, but instead face difficulties head on and teach tools to address them. Some students cannot memorize a multiplication table but can still do math to get the needed multiplication answers. Some students have test anxiety.  To discover clues, consider when a student’s math difficulties began. In elementary school? With algebra? With the current teacher? With Common Core?

The switch to Common Core curriculum has been a big adjustment. Before, kids were celebrated for being calculators. With Common Core, students need to be able to explain what they are doing and why it works. They also have to read through lengthy math problems and on their own pull out the necessary numbers needed to solve for the answer, which is a hurdle for reluctant or poor readers. They have to use math in the real world, deciding which math to use for different problems.

Be Informed

Ms. Orduña recommends a welcome email or call to let the teacher know you want to be a very involved parent. Ask when you can expect to see updates on the Parent Portal--weekly?

If you see an unsatisfactory grade, or your student says he or she is having trouble, communicate with the teacher before serious issues develop. Let the teacher know what your child does or doesn’t do well, such as having test anxiety. Many teachers will give opportunities such as extended testing time even without formal accommodations.

Go over assignments and class notes with your child, asking, “How do you know this is correct? What is happening here?” Even if you have no idea about the math, as a parent you know what your kid looks like when he or she doesn’t know the answer. See How Can You Help chart  (at right) for questions to use.

Students in Honors classes need to be able to learn and move on quickly due to the accelerated pace, and should watch out they don’t miss key pieces. Many students simply need more time to learn the material and should consider on level math math classes instead of Honors classes. (Middle schoolers have a second opportunity to enter accelerated classes when beginning high school.)



How Can You Help? 

Parents can:

(With standards students need as mathematicians and problem solvers )

Parents can say:

Be your child’s biggest fan. Read directions/problems aloud. Stop them when they get frustrated and go back to it later.

Standard: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them

You can do this!

Keep going just a little longer!

Let’s take a 10 minute break.

Help your child think what makes sense.

Standard: Reason abstractly and quantitatively

Who would be using this math to solve a situation?
How would you explain what you did to one of your classmates that doesn’t understand what to do?
Why did you decide to use that math?

Help your student to talk and explain the math.

Standard: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

How could we begin?
How did you solve this problem?
What did you do to get the answer?
Is there another way to solve the problem?

Ask your students to show their thinking.

Standard: Model with mathematics

Show me what method you used.

Make sure they are using the right tools—add, subtract, multiply, divide

Standard: Use appropriate tools strategically

Can you tell me how you are solving the problem?

Remind students to check their work

Standard: Attend to precision

How can you check if you are correct?

Look for patterns and connections.

Standards: Look for and make use of structure. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Have you done something like this before? You will do something like this again.


Use Resources

Another counsel is students may appear to get the math, yet are not mastering it. Their grade may not tell the whole story. Try resources other than class materials to see if the student solves problems with confidence, or if he or she is lost.  If getting outside tutoring, ask the teacher for three to four topics your student needs to strengthen. The Scope and Sequence for each class lists the topics and approximate point it will be taught.

Teachers may at times share useful lessons from the online resource Learnzillion. Students and parents receive a code to watch a particular video lesson and do accompanying sample problems.

TenMarks, a subscription paid by the district, helps teachers diagnose students with gaps and assign online work to bring him or her up to grade level, as well as assign ongoing grade level work. Students may receive a password or can access it directly from their PUSD Google accounts—look under the tab for PUSD bookmarks. TenMarks’ strength is assigning targeted and specific work based on a student’s level. Students should receive a customized assignment for over the summer, based on a TenMarks assessment at the end of the school year. The assessment is repeated at the start of the school year, and teachers should be able to easily provide parents with data from these assessments.