My children in third and fifth grade are struggling with math. I know it is important for them to do better, but I am at a loss for ways to help them. Please give me some ideas. -- Mathematically Challenged


You are right to want to help your children now. Failing to master the basics of math in the early years is likely to lead to continuing math problems in school, especially in high school, where more math courses are now being required. Here are four things that will definitely help you to improve your children's work in math:

  • Get help now.

Talk to each of your children's teachers and find out what specific help your children need and who can give them this help. It could be you, another family member, a tutor, a teacher at the school or a learning center. Ask the teacher about helpful online math Web sites.

  • Be sure your children know the basic facts.

This is one of the first steps in achieving competency in math. Facts are considered to be mastered when an answer can be given in less than 3 seconds. Try flashcard drills and games to help them master the facts. If they don't know an answer, have them lay out objects so they can "see" the answer.

  • Show your children how to handle their math homework.

Have them begin each math assignment by studying and then redoing the examples in the textbook or worksheet. Insist also that they write down all the examples that the teacher has written on the board to study and redo. Give them assistance if absolutely needed.

  • Encourage your children to do more math assignments.

Success in math, especially in handling story problems, comes from considerable practice. If your children are assigned the odd problems, have them do the even ones, too. Teachers might also have helpful worksheets that can be used. The more time your children spend on math, the quicker their skills will improve.

Caution: If your children are not capable of handling routine math assignments, work with their teachers on plans to give them assignments that they can handle.