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What Can I Do to Help My Son With Math?

Allison Gardenswartz
Allison Gardenswartz

By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator

Question:

I would like to know what I can do to help my son to improve in math. He was suffering greatly in all subjects. But I have been working with his teachers to help him improve, and he has. He is currently attending school on Saturdays, which seems to have greatly improved his grades except for math.

Answer:

Fifth-grade math can be challenging and it is often the year that math skills not mastered earlier cause problems. Without knowing the specifics of the math challenges your son faces, it is hard to advise you about concrete tools.

Always start with the classroom teacher, asking what areas seem to be most troubling and for suggestions about how to help. There are several things you can do to help with math in general.

First, determine if your son is proficient in basic facts. If he doesn't, fractions and conceptual problem-solving will be much more difficult for him. He can play computer games, like Math Blaster. Practice with flash cards or exercises like Designs in Math, in which you color an abstract picture based on solutions from fact practice.

He should know his basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division by rote. He should be able to solve single-digit computations without difficulty. This will give him the tools to learn fractions, which typically make up the bulk of fifth-grade math.

Once he knows his basic facts, you need to identify what particularly challenges your son. Talk with him and the classroom teacher. When homework is assigned in class, ask the teacher to do one or two practice problems of each type with your son, so that when he gets home he has a guide to follow for each type of problem. Use after-school help if available.

Help your son read word problems and convert them into mathematical sentences. Make sure that he is able to understand what the problem is asking. Sometimes students who are capable in math still struggle because they don't know how to convert a story problem into a math problem and they are uncertain as to what the question is. This can be taught by discussing and acting out the problem. Talk through it and use chips or pennies, if needed to visualize the problem.

The classroom teacher should have suggestions for the specific math that is challenging for your son. Try to tackle the task together and support your son as he works through the problems. Assign an allotted amount of time to accomplish the goal of the day and then move on.


Allison Gardenswartz is the founder of a San Diego tutoring center specializing in gifted and remedial learning and test preparation studies. An educator for over 15 years, Allison is an expert in identifying and enhancing the learning abilities of school-age children. Allison now fully devotes her time to parent education, consulting and college counseling. Allison has a teaching credential and has taught for several years in various public school systems. She has three children: Jacob, 11, Sofia, 7, and newly adopted Ryan, who is 3.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/19/2012:
"My son is 27 years old and I'm kinda a new foster mom. I have a child who is in 6th grade and i'm having to do alot of things I have forgotten. I like being very much involed in his school. He is telling me he don't have homework. I know that he does. I need to know what is going on at school and be very much involed. I tell him how important school is. I don't think he was pushed to do good before. I just want the best for him. I need to leaen what I need to do to help him in anyway. "
02/22/2010:
"It is imperative that every student masters basic math. It is a matter of knowing the basic and practicing everyday. Math is actually easy, if every student will do their math homework plus extra exercises. Practice makes perfect. My son who is in first grade can do second grade math with ease. This is because, we practice math everyday, studying for two hours just doing math. also, it is very important that parents sit with their kids and be very involve with their child's education. I just got my son's report card. We are both happy with the result. for math concept/application he got 97% and for math computation he got 100%."
11/19/2008:
"My daughter is 9 1/2 years old. She was suffering from sinus resulting headache and difficulty in sight. the glasses are getting thicker i.e. the numbers of her glasses are changing every 6 months. Kindly suggest me / help me in getting rid of this problem. Guide me the method. Thanks"
04/14/2008:
"In addition to learning aids that cost money, include free options, such as mathfactcafe.com. Also, flash cards you can buy or make at home include triangle-shaped cards. In one corner is the answer and in the other two corners are the facts being added (subtracted) or multiplied (divided). For instance, a card working on 2x8=16 would have 16 in one corner, a 2 in another and 8 in the third corner. When showing the card to your child cover the various 'answer' corners with your finger while you ask questions such as 2 plus 8 is? 8 plus 2 is? 16 minus 2 is? 16 minus 8 is? And the same for the multiply/divide cards."
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