Parents: How much math homework do you do?

Many parents tell me there comes a point when they stop feeling useful at homework time. Louise Epstein, the Fairfax County parent of three gifted mathematicians, said she challenged her daughters early on, creating word problems for them when they were toddlers. But her math instruction ended when they reached sixth or seventh grade.

She recalled the day her oldest daughter -- now a physics major at Cal Tech -- brought home a "challenge problem" from an honors math class at Longfellow Middle School.

"This is beyond me," she remembered saying. When her husband came home, he gave it a go. He dug out old textbooks and applied what her daughter called "brute force methods" throwing calculus formulas at it.

"He spent a very long time" on that problem, Epstein remembered. The next day the class solved the problem in a few simple steps, she said. She and her husband both have law degrees from Harvard University, but they don't come across equations very often, she said.

What's it like for you?

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  October 15, 2008; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Math for Parents
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My 7th grader started Algebra I, and while she's always been very good at math (better than I was) she is having some trouble this time understanding some of the concepts. While I'm able to help some, I have forgotten a lot and I have a Zoology degree! My husband is a little better at it. I am thinking she is starting to understand more, although her teacher has recommended some after-school tutoring.

Posted by: mosere | October 15, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I check the homework nightly and ask my elementary school age child to review it if she has gotten any wrong. But I don't "do" the work for either of them. Of course, at this age, I am capable of doing the work, but there will come a time when I am not--and probably it will be soon! I took no math beyond pre-calculus in HS, and all the college math I took was a rehash of what I'd previously learned.

My dad spent hours with my when I was in geometry in HS, asking my "what do you know about these two triangles? What else do you know? What else do you know?" He didn't do the homework for me, but his questions sure helped me understand how to approach the problem.

Posted by: janedoe5 | October 15, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Heck, as a math teacher my own son would FIGHT me over his homework!
If I had a dime for every time I had to say, "Uh, son, what do I teach? :-o
Generally I try not to do the work for him, but pose questions to make him think on his own, which of course he and my students HATE! :-)

Posted by: pdfordiii | October 19, 2008 11:20 PM | Report abuse

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