5 Tips for Helping Kids with Math Homework

The power of homework can’t be overestimated. An essential part of our program, it can play a valuable role in developing an important characteristic shared by highly successful people: active learning.

Active learners are those who continually seek to understand what they don’t know rather than expect someone else to provide the answer. At RSM we expect all of our students, regardless of age, to complete their homework independently and come to class with questions about anything they didn’t understand. Even the structure of our class - where homework questions are answered just before the homework quiz - sends the message to students that they are responsible for their own learning.


Homework is also a crucial stepping stone to mastering a topic. RSM teachers are expert at finding ways to engage students when introducing a new concept, but it’s unreasonable to expect that students will absorb 100% of the information they just learned. Mastery can only be achieved through independent effort.


Here are five things RSM parents can do to ensure that their children glean the most benefit from homework:


1. Schedule homework time wisely. Timing is particularly important for parents of middle and elementary school children. Designate a regular and uninterrupted time slot for RSM homework that is approximately half as long in duration as your child’s weekly class.  Make sure this time slot is as soon after class as possible. Most people will forgetup to 40% of new information within the first day of learning it. Doing homework in the first day or two after class reinforces knowledge and increases absorption.  To create optimal learning conditions, schedule homework for a time when your child is likely to be alert and well fed.


2. Resist the urge to provide the solution when helping your children with homework. If your explanation conflicts with the teacher’s explanation it will only confuse them. A better approach is to ask your child if they understand the problem. In 90% of cases, children simply don’t know what’s being asked of them. If you feel you’ve clarified the problem and your child still doesn’t understand, simply place a question mark next to the problem or email the teacher. The teacher will see this and provide an explanation during class.


3. Show that you value the program.  You don’t have to be a math professor or even have a solid knowledge of math to be a great RSM parent. Children are smart: they can sense what’s important to you, and they want to please you. Show your children you value the RSM program by talking about it at dinner, or in front of your friends. Ask your children what they learned on the way home from class. Show them you’re proud of their being a student at RSM. Generally, foster a positive atmosphere around math school.  Children will always find things they’d rather be doing than homework, but if your child senses that RSM is important to you it will become important to them too.


4. Build a relationship with your child’s teacher. RSM teachers are a great resource for you and your child. Keep teacher contact information handy for questions that arise throughout the semester, and try to see your child’s teacher before or after class at least three times throughout the semester. This will forge a better classroom connection for your child.


5. Use homework help as intended.  Our homework help services can also be a powerful resource for making up a missed class or covering a subject that your child finds particularly challenging. But when homework help is overused, children can develop resentment or become too dependent on it. As a rule, we suggest using homework help no more than three times a semester.  For routine homework confusion, our best resource is your child’s teacher.  You can send an email or simply write a note on the homework.


Help your child to prepare questions for homework help. This alerts the tutor to concepts that are particularly challenging for your child. And it also encourages students to be active in their learning process.


Happy homework-ing!


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