Category Archives: > Math Issues

Help Kids With Tricky Homework

by Bob Cunningham at

[O-G reading tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021]

At a Glance

  • It’s common for parents to have trouble helping kids with math homework.
  • Math is a process. It helps to walk through the process with your child.
  • Having examples of a similar math problem can help your child complete tough math homework.

Your child needs help with math homework, but you’re not sure how to do the math problems yourself. Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone. This happens a lot to parents.

Keep in mind that showing kids with learning or attention issues that it’s OK not to know the answers can be a good lesson. Here are some suggestions for approaching math homework with your child.

The Most Important Tip for Math Homework

It’s important not to spend more than 10 to 20 minutes working through math homework that neither you nor your child knows how to do. Spending more time than this will probably just be frustrating for you and your child without providing much benefit.

Try the steps outlined below. If they don’t work, it may be better for your child to get more instruction from a teacher in order to complete the homework.

5 Things to Do When Helping With Math Homework

Here are things to keep in mind when helping your child with tricky math homework.

  1. Start by acknowledging that not understanding what to do can be stressful.You can also say something positive to acknowledge that your child is trying. For example: “I’m proud that you know what the homework is and brought home the proper materials.”
  2. Ask your child to show you an example. This could include a math problem he did in class or a sample math problem from a textbook that includes the answer.
  3. If your child can’t find an example problem, try typing one of the homework problems into an internet search. Your child’s worksheet, textbook or notebook might have a title or math term to search for online. Your search will bring up a list of websites designed to help with math. Try a few sites if the first one doesn’t help.
  4. Once you’ve found a sample problem either from your child or online, ask how the teacher said to do the problems. Having a completed example in front of him can help your child recall any instructions and class discussions.
  5. Use the sample problem to figure out the process to follow to solve the problem. Make notes of each step your child remembers as you work your way through the first problem together. This reminds your child that math is a process. The list you create also gives your child something to take to the teacher to show his efforts, even if he doesn’t come up with the right answer. The teacher can use the list to correct the process so that your child can solve the problem in the future.

3 Things to Avoid When Helping With Math Homework

Here are three things to avoid doing when your child asks for math homework help.

  1. Try not to begin by asking your child what the teacher said to do. If your child remembered that, he likely wouldn’t be asking for your help.
  2. Try not to contact the teacher right away. Kids with learning and attention issues might give up easily or get angry if they’re not sure what to do. But it’s important for them to try to think of ways to approach the situation before going to the teacher.
  3. Try not to write a note that just says your child didn’t understand the assignment. Give the teacher information about what your child has trouble with, such as adding fractions. This can help find the “missing piece” to solve math problems.

For more help with sticky homework situations, here are tips on how to win homework battles. And visit Parenting Coach for ways to work with kids who give up too easily.

Key Takeaways

  • Try not to spend more than 10 to 20 minutes working through math homework that you and your child don’t know how to do.
  • It’s good to take notes while you’re trying to help solve a math problem.
  • If the process helps your child solve the math problem, great! If not, he can show these notes to his teacher for more instruction.

About the Author

Bob Cunningham


Orton-Gillingham reading tutor in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards, 614-579-6021. Or email

+ STEM Curriculum and Students with Learning Challenges

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Linking complex math equations to tangible tasks and objects  students could see, touch and interact with, increased their competence and fluency in different subject areas.

According to an article by Richard G. Collins and Joseph J. Viscomi in IDA’s “Perspectives” newsletter, the Brehm Preparatory School in Carbondale IL   has responded to the pressure for increased STEM education.

Brehm is a grade 6-12 coeducational boarding school for students with complex learning disabilities.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Brehm has increased its instructional opportunities in forensics, physics, chemistry, anatomy, precalculus, calculus, assistive technologies, and computer programming.

Programming classes were implemented.  Students are now given  the ability to think abstractly and solve complex problems with a computer.  A programming language, SCHEME, was selected for its simplified set of rules which allow students to learn all the syntax in less than 30 minutes.

Much like the game of chess, say Collins and Visconti, this language is quickly learned, but it requires practice and an ongoing implementation of strategy for mastery.

Students successfully used the computer to apply complex concepts in order to solve otherwise impossible problems.  

SCHEME  gives immediate feedback, a distinct advantage when dealing with bugs or short attention spans common to students with possible executive function issues.

The school turned to  the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) ( 

The FRC  competition allows engineers to work with students in an innovative and exciting setting, where  they build robots to solve problems.  According to the article,

The competition was a great opportunity for all involved, and, with the help of some mentors, served as the foundation of a successful program that is very exciting and motivating for students.

It gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills head to head with teams from around the world in a very competitive environment ruled by gracious professionalism.

Since students with learning challenges often excel in creative thinking and hands-on projects in the arts, they also excel in fun hands-on STEM projects that combine science and technology.

Brehm students learned science skills in order to design and test theories for solving problems related to tasks for their robots.  

In order to use the latest industry standard computer, electronics, robotic parts and programs, students had to understand and use technology.

This kind of difficult application involves melding creativity, understanding, cooperation, stressful timelines and individual experience.    When Brehm students linked complex math equations to tangible tasks, the result was engagement with objects students could see, touch and interact with.

So, while these students were strengthening their STEM education, they were learning leadership and teamwork skills.   They dealt successfully with stress and tight timelines.  And faculty noticed that the program has a positive impact on all areas of school life and decisions.

In order to quantify the experience at Brehm, administrators looked at graduation placements.  This is what they found: prior to the introduction of the robotics program, students weren’t selecting STEM-related majors. 

But since the three-year inclusion of this program, the first graduating class who participated in the project went to CalPoly Tech, DePaul, Carnegie Mellon and Wisconsin Stout in majors that included computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemistry.

Brehm School is located at  1245 E. Grand Avenue   Carbondale, IL 62901.   Phone: 618.457.0371    Fax: 618.529.1248   Visit  Information:

The Brehm School also offers their Options program, which  is a comprehensive transitional program for post-high school students with complex learning disabilities.  For that information, visit  

sole source for this information is the article by Richard G. Collins and Joseph J. Visconti in the  Summer 2010 issue of “Perspectives,” a quarterly publication of the International Dyslexia Association.   

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email

+ November 2010 — Lindamood-Bell Workshops in Cincinnati

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Lindamood Bell Learning Processes is bringing five of its teacher-training workshops to the Cincinnati area November 8-18, 2010.

Teachers, parents and educators will have the opportunity to attend the workshops at the Holiday Inn Concinnati Airport in Erlanger Kentucky.

  • Attend the two- day “Seeing Stars” seminar November 8-9.
  • Visualizing and Verbalizing” is a two-day workshop as well: November 10 -11.
  • “Talkies”  is a one-day workshop on November 12.
  • The LiPS (Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing) workshop is a three-day workshop November 15-17.
  • “On Cloud Nine Math” (OCN) is a one-day workshop on November 18.

Call 800-233-1819.  Register for the workshops at

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  

+ Tips for Teaching Math Facts

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From TeachHub, these twelve tips for teaching math facts, by Randi Saulter.  For the entire article, visit

  • Teach a limited number of facts at a time
  • Add new facts only after the previous set has been mastered
  • Do cumulative practice 
  • Form a verbal chain (recite problem and answer aloud)
  • Mastery = automaticity
  • Set  realistic, individual fluency goals
  • Have a routine for daily practice sessions 
  • Have a routine for corrective feedback during practice 
  • Keep practice sessions short 
  • Have a process for monitoring progress 
  • Begin memorizing multiplication facts in Grade 4 (at the latest)
  • Celebrate success! 

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email

+ Math Camp for Pre-College Students at OSU

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The Ross Program at the Ohio State University is an intensive summer experience.  It’s designed to encourage motivated pre-college students to explore mathematics.  Over eight weeks, students are immersed in a world of mathematical discovery.

Founded by Dr. Arnold Ross, the multi-level program began at Notre Dame in 1957.  Spurred by the launch of the Sputnik satellite, and the subsequent surge of interest in science education, the program has run every summer since then.  It was moved to Ohio State in 1964.  At this time, the program is also supported by the Clay Mathematics Institute, OSU, and The Epsilon Project of The American Mathematics Society (AMS). .


The central goal of the program is to instruct bright young students in the art of mathematical thinking, as well as to inspire them to discover for themselves the value and importance of abstract ideas. First year participants take the basic course in number theory.  For most students, this is the first time they’ve been asked to consider entirely new questions, to develop entirely new methods of thinking, and to justify every answer.

The value: students gain proficiency in computational tasks and build a foundation for critical thinking. Only students who can ask why things work the way they do will be able to lead the way in future scientific innovation.  The Ross program strives to nurture precisely this type of questioning and independence of thought.

Who is eligible?

According to the web site — — ambitious pre-college students with interests in mathematics and science are invited to apply.  First year students range in age from 14-18 years of age.  Admission decisions are based on several criteria:

  • the applicant’s work on some challenging math problems
  • essays concerning the applicant’s interests and goals
  • teacher recommendations 
  • school transcripts

Costs and financial aid

The fees for the program are determined entirely by the cost of eight weeks of room and board.  For the 2010 session, the fee is $2,500.  Some financial aid is available.

Visit the site for more information or to print out a brochure.

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021   or email

+ Take Ten Minutes and Teach Your Child

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The LDA Early Childhood Committee places an occasional article in its Newsbrief called “Take Time for Ten Together.” 

Here are ten “teaching” tips from the January/February 2010 issue: You’ll be teaching math, science, cognitive skills, time planning and self-esteem! 

  • Introduce a child to a ruler or yardstick.  Include them in the task if you’re measuring a room, building a deck, or estimating how much paint will be needed for a project.
  • Ask a child for ideas when you plan a renovation.  Ask him or her to make the sketches or draw up a materials list.
  • Include a child when you design the layout of a vegetable garden.  Ask what veggies they’d like to plant.
  • If you’re planting flower seeds, ask a child to help measure the depth of the hole for the seeds.  Ask their assistance in planning where which flowers will look best.
  • When you’re doing routine maintenance on a vehicle, explain to a child what is being done.  Explain the reason for each tool.  When the oil needs changing, take the child with you to your recycling place.  
  • When you purchase new household or garage tools, take a child to the home improvement or auto store.  Explain what the tools are used for.  Calculate costs.
  • If you can, buy child-sized tools so your child can help with routine yard maintenance. He or she will “learn by doing,” bond with you, and experience a big sense of accomplishment.
  • If you’re making plumbing repairs, show your child where the water shut-off valve is located.  Explain why the water must be shut off before repairs are made.  Explain the purpose of the Teflon tape used in plumbing repairs.
  • Changing furnace or air conditioning filters?  Explain why.  Let them help.  They can mark the calendar for the next scheduled change.
  • As you change the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year (schedule it with the changing of the clocks) explain how the detectors work.  Show how to insert the batteries.

These activities are teachable moments, and the benefits for the child (and you) can last a lifetime. 

Join LDA, the Learning Disabilities Association, by visiting  (By the way, they are accepting proposals for grants until March 15, 2010.  This year five organizations were awarded a total of $35,000.) 

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email

+ NY School District Offers All-Girls Tech Program

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The Fairport Central School District in upstate New York has approved an aggressive approach to counteract the gender gap in technology education, according to Ernst Lamothe, Jr in the Democrat Chronicle.

The district is set to begin a two-year pilot program starting next fall, to create four all-girl technology courses (two in ninth grade and two in middle school).  Enrollment will be voluntary, in compliance with Title IX.

Dave Allyn, a special assignment administrator for the district says, “Girls sometimes won’t take technology classes because they don’t want to be the only girl in a class or in a technology club.  Job growth is happening again in engineering and some of the sciences where old stereotypes persist about those male-dominated fields, and we need to make our young women aware that there is an opportunity for them.” 

Although women make up more than half of the work force, they hold only 28 percent of technology positions (US Bureau of labor Statistics).  The number of young women studying computer science has fallen by more than 40 percent in the past two decades.

With computer support specialist, systems administrator and engineering positions expected to grow significantly by 2016, educators and employers worry that young women are failing to gain the necessary skills for those jobs.

Both the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology have less than 30 percent female enrollment in their undergraduate engineering programs.

More than 450 public schools nationwide offer single-sex academic classes, says the US Department of Education.  Research finds that female students learn differently, including preferring collaborative learning and quieter environments.

They are more concerned with complete understanding, doing quality work and helping others.  Male students tend to want to complete tasks as quickly as possible and move on.

Instead of trying to make girls fit into the existing system, school districts nationwide are changing to become more inviting for girls.  The solutions include instituting after-school technology clubs targeting young women as well as offering single-gender technology classes.

Universities also continue to push hard to attract more female engineers, since women make up less than 18 percent of six engineering fields, including single-digit percentages in civil and mechanical engineering.

Colleges and universities have started national programs such as “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” which is part of February’s Engineering Week.  The push continues in March, during Women’s History Month, when elementary and secondary schools can participate in live Web chats and teleconferences that encourage girls to consider engineering as a major.

The Rochester Institue of Technology began several initiatives six years ago.  They offer a middle school girls’ robotics program every winter, as well as an elementary design program camp.

At the Fairport schools, boys made up 90.3 percent of the enrollment in technology classes last year; this year, the proportion rose to 91.7 percent.   When the high school added a computer game design course to teach students programming skills, only three of the 115 enrollees were girls.

These single-gender classes will have the same curriculum and exams as their mixed-gender counterparts.  There will be two eighth-grade Technology for Girls classes that will last one quarter at two of the schools and a semester- or year-long course at the other two.

Fairport Middle School teachers purchased computer programming, designed by a Carnegie Mellon University professor, intended to appeal to girls.

According to Allyn, “Usually computer games are all about car crashes, armies, gunfights and sports, which boys tend to like, but not always young girls.” 

But this new system encourages people to write stories and put them into animation, which taps into the creativity and technology aspects for the female students.

The district has also added hand-drafting units for graphic arts and two environmental-related units, because women make up almost 50 percent of people in the field of environmental engineering.

Elizabeth Brown, a technology teacher at one of the schools, says schools need to follow that up by offering young girls more classes focused on green and alternative energy issues.  She has her class building solar-powered cars this year.

“If we are serious about this issue,” says Brown, “you have to make inroads with our young women now, and it must start as early as middle school.”

The school district also started a new middle school club called Cyberettes, connecting them with female computer students enrolled at RIT.  They work together on projects such as Web design, encryption, programming and video editing, giving young girls an introduction to technology careers and advice from women talking about their experience in a male-dominated culture.

Margaret Bailey, mechanical engineer professor at RIT and executive director of its Women in Engineering program, says

There are some girls who are going to do well regardless of putting them in single-gender class or not.  But for those who might not, what Fairport is doing makes sense, expecially at a young age, when you see girls losing interest in math and sciences because they are not getting much encouragement about pursuing careers in those areas.

Additional Facts:

According to the US Census Bureau, women make up a small proportion of professionals in key technology fields:

  • Physics: 21 percent
  • Computer science: 18.6 percent
  • Aerospace engineering: 11.5 percent
  • Civil Engineering: 9.5 percent
  • Mechanical engineering: 7.1 percent

sole source: article by Ernst Lamothe Jr at on 11/16/09.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email