A light-hearted look at the challenges of maths homework

It’s Sunday evening. You’re struggling to get school uniforms ironed, putting on a last-minute wash for the PE kits you just found festering in a discarded bag under your child’s bed, and reading a demand-for-cash letter from your child’s teacher about overdue trip money.

Then suddenly, your child gasps, drops the games console, and announces: ‘I have maths homework. Can you help me?

I remember the feeling well. Your heart beats more rapidly at the same time as it plummets toward your fluffy slippers; a cold shiver runs down your back; and your shaking hands drop that strongly-worded letter into your glass of Pinot.

Gulping, you ask your child what maths homework, and give a silent prayer that it’s not one of the following:

1 – Learning Times Tables

It’s bad enough with a crying child who can’t remember seven times eight, but when you’re not sure either …

‘Learning times tables’ went out of fashion for a while, and it’s possible you’re one of that generation of parents who didn’t have to go through the hell that is reciting your tables in front of the class. It was even worse when the teacher would just point at you and shout a random one (almost always seven times eight when the finger pointed at me).

Times tables joke

Teacher: Sally, stand up and recite your six-times-tables.

Sally: (stands up) Daa daa de-daaa. Daa daa de-daaa. Daa daa de-daaa. Daa-

Teacher: (Angrily) Sally, what are you doing?

Sally: My six times tables, miss. I remember the tune but I’ve forgotten the words!

2 – Fractions

What is it about fractions that they won’t behave like ‘normal’ numbers? How can you divide something by three fifths and end up with more than you had at the beginning? And why is adding fractions together such a long-winded pain in the butt? And what’s a ‘denominator’?

If you find any area of fractions a real nightmare, here are some videos that will help ease the pain!

https://maths4parents.com/f-fractions.html

Fractions joke

Statistics show that seven out of five people don’t understand fractions.

3 – Word Problems

Andy has 3,478 toffees. He keeps 25%, then shares half of what’s left between three of his mates, one of whom sells his share for 25p a toffee. How many teeth does Andy have left?

OK, that’s a bit silly – but that’s how a lot of those wordy maths questions look to children, and to many parents. Even if your arithmetic is strong, attempting to work out exactly what is going on in some of these questions often feels as if you’re taking an IQ logic test.

4 – Anything that requires the use of a ‘number line’

‘We didn’t have number lines in our day. Why can’t kids just learn the method I learned for addition/subtraction/multiplication/division? It was much quicker.’

Number lines are wonderful, versatile things that help children see what is happening to numbers at a basic level, and I wish they had been around when I was struggling with maths at primary school.

But for all that, there seems to be an expectation that parents will be familiar with the new-fangled device, and admitting to bafflement often earns pitying looks – even scorn – from your child.

5 – Algebra

To quote that amusing meme you’ve probably seen on social media: ‘And another day I didn’t need algebra!’

Why do kids even learn algebra? When are we ever going to have x amount of paint to cover y metres of fence panels? Surely we’d know how much we have of each before we start?

There are quite a few real-life occasions when algebra comes in useful, but I bet you’d struggle to think of one whilst your child is having a meltdown and you’re counting how many strands of hair you have left on your head.

Here’s a link to some Algebra videos with step-by-step explanations

https://maths4parents.com/a-algebra.html

Algebra joke

There are very good reasons (usually!) for the methods your child is taught at school, even if you’ve never used them. Life would just be easier, though, if we’d all been taught the same.

If you dread your child’s maths homework, be assured – you’re not alone!

Is your biggest maths-homework-dread included here? Or do you fear something else even more?