In schools that use Investigations, families often feel unsure of how to help their children with math homework. Many parents/caregivers have told me that they don’t understand the strategies their children are using and don’t know what to do if their child is struggling with a homework assignment. The math education field has work to do to help families make sense of how math is being taught, and to help them figure out how to support their children in mathematics learning. However, I think a good place to start is to assure families that they don’t need to know the strategies students are using in school to support their children at home. They can play an important role in helping their children become mathematically powerful by encouraging and supporting their children in using what they already know and understand to solve problems. When I work with parents I often give out the following questions as a handout to help them in this role. Parents often seem relieved to have this different picture of how they can help, and happy to have this small resource to help them begin to do so.

Questions to Ask While Your Child is Solving a Problem

Possible questions to ask after your child has read the problem (if it is a word problem): 

  • Can you retell the problem? 
  • What do we already know in this problem? 
  • What don’t you know? What are you trying to find out?

Possible questions to ask before your child solves the problem:

  • Is there something you know that can help you solve this problem?
  • Could a problem you have solved before help you solve this problem?
  • What strategy are you going to use to solve the problem?
  • Would drawing a picture help?

Possible questions to ask as your child is recording how they solved the problem:

  • How did you solve it? 
  • What did you do first? How can you show that? What did you do next? How can you show that?
  • How are you keeping track of your answer?

Possible questions to ask after your child has recorded their strategy whether they solved the problem correctly or not: (If your child has made a mistake they will often catch the mistake while explaining their strategy.)

  • How did you solve the problem? Can you explain to me your steps?
  • Does your answer make sense? Does it seem reasonable?

We would love to hear your ideas about working with parents to support their children in mathematics at home!

Arusha Hollister

Arusha is one of the authors of both the 2nd and 3rd editions of Investigations in Number, Data and Space. She has also developed both in-person and online professional development for Investigations. Before working at TERC, Arusha was an elementary school classroom teacher and a math coach.
Arusha Hollister

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