Picture the scene: Your child is sat doing their maths homework or revising for a maths exam when they hit a tricky question that stops them in their tracks. You want to help but don't know where to start. Sound familiar?
Don't worry; you're not alone by any means. In our experience, parents looking for help to support their child's maths studies fall into one of three categories:
- Parents who clearly remember their own maths and want to make sure they explain it correctly
- Parents who vaguely remember their own maths so need time to read up on it first
- Parents whom maths may as well be in a foreign language!
No matter what category you might belong to, here is our three-step guide to helping your child navigate from problem to solution.
Step 1: Determine what the question is asking
The first stage of helping your child is to decipher what the question is asking. Knowing this will determine what your child needs to know in order to answer it.
To discover what the topic is (and the particular part of that topic), work with your child to look for clues in the question's vocabulary and diagrams in the notes and examples.
You can then compare the keywords and diagrams with examples in their exercise books, recommended websites, handouts, or test questions to find the mathematical match.
Step 2: Let the detective work begin
Once you've pinpointed the topic and type of question, you can work together to uncover how to solve the problem. This is a great opportunity to teach your child the value of research. Popular research methods include:
- Online videos: These can be helpful but are also time-consuming. With so many on offer, it can be confusing knowing which to watch, when to pause, and what to note down, and frustrating having to re-watch them several times.
- Textbooks: This option can be a quicker solution for discovering the relevant information and examples of similar questions, but sifting through other aspects of the topic to find the particular part you need can be time-consuming
- Revision guides: This is probably the best solution for having instant access to the key facts and directly related examples. Whether for homework or revision, they're an essential resource to have to hand throughout the course
Step 3: Make the most of your revision guide
The most straightforward place to start with a revision guide is to find the pages directly related to the topic in hand. You can then narrow down the information further to focus on the required part of the topic.
You and your child will then have the information you need to work out how to answer the question, and be aware of the vocabulary and/or diagram type to make it quicker and easier to search for a relevant online video.
Having cracked the code to solve the problem, your child may be keen to know more about the 'why' as well as the 'how'. That's the perfect point at which to move on to a textbook containing more detailed background knowledge, or your child may wish to ask a teacher or maths clinic at school.