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Parents - Tip Sheets - Help your teenager succeed in math


One of the strongest factors that have been scientifically proven to predict student success in school is parental involvement. So today you have already taken the biggest step to helping your teen succeed in math just by showing an interest and finding out more information!

Communication is always the key

There are four main things to remember about communication:

Communication at home
Talk to your son about what is going on in his math class. Don’t just focus on the topics that are being covered, but also on how your son is feeling about the topics and his math skills in general. Often dislike is used to cover up discomfort. So if your son says he doesn’t like a particular topic it may be because he is having trouble with it, and could really use some extra help.

Math is like a pyramid: securely learning the topics studied at higher levels requires a strong and broad foundation. If there are gaps in the foundation, it can lead to a shaky grasp of new material. It is never too late to go back and deepen your understanding of a foundational topic, like fractions. Everyone wants to do well, however we all need a little encouragement from time to time. Let your teen know that with a little help she can learn that stubborn math topic.

Make sure that your son writes all the dates for quizzes, tests and assignments in his agenda. Every day when you look at his

agenda you can record these dates on another calendar so that you can check in with him to see how he is progressing.

Good communication
There are all kinds of communication, but sometimes how something is said is more important than what is being said. Many people have strong feelings about math, and they are not always good. In general, be as positive about math as possible. A “can-do” attitude improves chances for success. Support doesn’t always have to be answering math questions. Showing interest and offering advice on work and study habits are also good ways to encourage your teen.

Communication in the classroom
One of the largest differences, besides all the technology and manipulatives, between a math class twenty years ago and one today is an increase in the amount of words used to solve a problem. Communication is a key focus in all of today’s math classrooms. This is, in part, because of the curriculum’s focus on real life skills: what good is it if you can come up with the answer to an everyday problem if you can’t explain it to anyone?

Students are often not as successful as they could be because they communicate their answers poorly. When your teen does her homework, go over her answers together and look especially at the amount and quality of what she wrote. Ask her to verbally explain her answers to you in more detail. Then help her write out the more detailed explanations. Encourage her to use lots of words as well as diagrams, formulas, graphs, charts, and well set out calculations.

Communication with the school
Talk to your son’s teacher at the beginning of the semester. Let the teacher know that you want to keep informed about how your son is doing in math class. Give the teacher your contact information on a piece of paper. Include a daytime phone number and an e-mail address if possible, as a teacher often can easily send off a quick note to keep you updated on new developments.

Encourage your daughter to talk to her teacher about her progress as well. Let
your daughter know that you expect her  to show an interest in her own progress,  as her education is a group effort with her at the lead.

Homework is…

…the most important part of any mathematics program. Math is just like any skill, practice makes perfect. Nobody expects to be good at playing an instrument or a sport without practice.

Homework should be done every day, even if all the assigned questions are already completed. Your son should be practicing his math skills at home on a regular basis by reviewing his notes, reading his textbook, and going over old questions and assessments, not just by doing the questions that were written on the board. Preparing for an assessment is not something that should only be done the night before. When your son habitually works backwards and looks forwards he will be able to take the “surprise” out of a surprise quiz since he will be in a perpetual state of preparedness. What a wonderful feeling that is!

All kinds of levels

Discuss your daughter’s short- and long-term goals. Her post-secondary plans will affect which math courses she will take in high school. There are three levels which lead down different paths. Being in the correct level will not only make her math class more relevant to her, but will also ensure that she can follow the path that she wants.

And most importantly…

No one can do well on an assessment that isn’t completed. Being there is the most important thing. Work done with technology or manipulatives, as well as investigations and cooperative learning, is difficult, sometimes almost impossible, to reproduce outside of the classroom.

Also, a good night’s sleep, a good attitude and a good math set, along with a pencil, eraser and calculator are excellent things to have for math class. Being there and being on time ensures that your teen won’t miss out on the vital instructions and teaching points that are the key to reaching your teen’s full mathematical potential.

For help:

For free help with Math and Science, students can call the following number:

Free Math and Science Help for Indiana Students
Grades 6 -12

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