*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

*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.

#### Latest posts by Arusha Hollister (see all)

- Helping with Math Homework - January 7, 2019
- Multiplication in 5th Grade: What Are Some Issues? - December 10, 2018
- What Does It Mean to Go Deeper? - July 6, 2018

Thank you. This is very useful. A resource that also features problems from an older grade( I teach grade 5) would also be great. I have families that are also looking for questions that will help stretch their child’s thinking. They tend to rush through the problems, parents want to help encourage more, but don’t know how.

Thanks for your comments, Jennifer. I am glad you found the list of questions useful! Even though we included an image from 3rd grade we really see these questions as useful across the grades and for most of the types of problems students are asked to solve.

Your query about how families stretch their child’s thinking is an interesting one. In my mind, some of the questions in the handout support this. Students who rush through their work benefit from being asked to explain their thinking and/or to make sure how they solved a problem is clearly recorded so others can understand it. Your question also got me thinking about some of the types of extension questions we include in the Differentiation: Supporting the Range of Learners sections in the curriculum. (See p. # of an Implementation Guide at any grade.) Questions like the following might help extend their thinking:

•Do you think that would work with any [multiplication] problem? With any numbers?

•Are you sure? How would you convince someone else?

•Can you find another way to solve this problem?

•Have you found all of the possibilities? (if there is more than one possible answer)

However, I am not sure how easily families would be able to decide when to ask these questions. I would love to think about this further. Are there questions that you ask to help students stretch their thinking that families might be able to ask their children?

http://www.khanacademy.org is another resource that is free to the world.