Math Homework: Parents May Think They're Helping, But. . .

By Mara McGinnis

Release Date: August 10, 1998 This content is archived.


Douglas Clements, professor of learning and instruction in the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education, warns that parents should not be "suckered" into doing their child's mathematics homework.

"Parents often do most of the conceptual work and believe the child understands it, but really the child just followed procedures," says Clements, who specializes in mathematics instruction.

"If parents do their child's work, it fosters a lack of responsibility in the child," he explains.

• Concentrating on how your child thinks about the problem by asking him or her what strategies they use to solve it. "If it is simple computational algorithms, as homework often is, ask how they know the strategy works and if they can estimate the answers," he says.

• Asking the child to draw diagrams or pictures to illustrate why the strategy works.

• Showing the relevance of the homework whenever possible by relating it to what parents or other adults do in their work or daily life activities.

• Looking into mathematics workbooks with fun activities and games to help with learning at home. Some helpful resources Clements suggests are: "Math for Smarty Pants" and "The I Hate Mathematics Book," both by Marilyn Burns; "Beyond Facts and Flashcards: Exploring Math With Your Kids," by Jan R. Mokros, and "Family Math" by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson and Ruth Cossey.

Reporters wishing to interview Clements may reach him at 716-645-3158 ext. 572 (office), 716-689-3788 (home) or via e-mail at