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No parent left behind: Resources abound to help parents conquer math with their children

Published: Sunday, Dec. 2 2012 6:10 p.m. MST

As the Shapiro family learned, tutoring can be done online or by telephone, as well. Math 1-2-3’s owner, Mark Kronenberg, said families appreciate being able to stay at home for math sessions. Sometimes a single session will get a student back on track in math, but that's unusual, Kronenberg said. Getting behind in math happens over time, and it takes time to fix the situation.

"Generally, when a student is struggling it means they've had a poor foundation in math in previous years," he said, noting that many of today's kids haven’t memorized multiplication tables, and are calculator-dependent.

Students with shaky math foundations often mislabel themselves as "dumb in math," Kronenberg said. Confidence soars after a tutor fills in learning gaps and teaches mental math strategies, such as estimating.

Options for help with math homework

Most of today's math textbook publishers sponsor websites that furnish helps for parents and students. These may include chapter-by-chapter explanations of math concepts, along with demonstrations, glossaries, videos and more. Doing a web search using the name of your math textbook's publisher should locate helpful resources. See the Pearson Prentice Hall at phschool.com or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Education Place at eduplace.com.

Many online sites offer supplemental video instruction broken into small chunks. Khan Academy's website at khanacademy.com is the best-known. Another good one is Algebra.com.

AAA Math at aaamath.com has hundreds of pages explaining basic math skills, arranged by grade level. There are interactive practice opportunities.

The Illustrative Mathematics website at illustrativemathematics.org traces the grade-by-grade progression of common core state standards. Clicking on the topics will open up additional information and examples.

The Wolfram Alpha site at wolframalpha.com is every math student's dream. Students can type in their questions and get the answers. Parents might want to supervise, to ensure that students don't use the site to copy answers without working problems. But, Wolfram Alpha provides a great way to check whether the answers students work out are correct, and to see methods for attacking specific problems.

The Math in Daily Life site at learner.org helps students see how math relates to their activities and decisions.

Sometimes, families overlook opportunities for help within their school systems. Ask whether your school offers after-school help sessions. (Sometimes these are targeted toward at-risk students.)

Many school districts offer summer academies for students who failed math classes. These can get kids back on track.

Private tutoring companies abound, but many are expensive. Families would do well to ask neighbors if they know of a math-gifted high school or college student willing to provide tutoring sessions for a bargain price. School math departments may know local people who do private tutoring.

Professional tutors who can fill in learning gaps can be worth their cost. Besides such services as Sylvan Learning Center and Kumon Learning Center, there are online options. At Math 1-2-3, WebEx video-conferencing software allows students to work with tutors from their own homes. The format allows tutor and student to see one another, and the problems they are working on, via computer screen.

Sources: Davis School District, Utah; Transition Math Project, Washington; Math123

Tips for parents of struggling math students

Show an interest in your child's math homework, even if you don't understand it. Review your child's math homework and test scores.

Check your own math attitude. Your child might sense any negative feelings you have about math. Stay positive.

Discuss with your child what traits and habits can help to achieve success in math. Those include taking responsibility for learning, paying attention to detail and persevering when the going gets tough.

Source: Transition Math Project, Washington

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com, EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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