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How to help kids with tricky math homework

By Gretchen Vierstra, MA

Math homework can be tricky for lots of kids. And sometimes the adults helping kids aren’t sure how to help — or how to do the math problem themselves.

When kids have trouble with math homework, the most important thing is to not dwell on it for too long. A good rule is to not spend more than 10 to 20 minutes working through math homework that kids are unsure of. Spending more time than this can be frustrating for everyone — without providing many benefits.

Here are other things to avoid when kids ask for help with math homework: 

  • Try not to contact the teacher right away. Kids might give up easily if they’re not sure what to do. But it’s important for them to think of ways to approach the problem. That way they can share their process with the teacher for feedback.  

  • Don’t write a note that just says they didn’t understand it. Instead, be specific about what kids are having trouble with, like adding fractions. This information helps you and the teacher find the “missing piece.”

Having trouble with math homework doesn’t always mean kids have trouble with math in general. Keeping track of what you see can help you figure out what’s going on and the best way to help. 

Dive deeper

What causes trouble with math homework

Here are some of the reasons why kids might need help with their math homework: 

Trouble with math: When kids need help with math homework, it may be a sign that they’re having trouble with math in general. Learn more about math challenges in kids .

Trouble with reading: To solve some math problems — especially word problems — kids have to read well. Learn more about reading challenges , and what can help.  

Trouble with homework: Sometimes kids may be having trouble with homework in general, not just the math homework. They may even feel anxious about it. Learn about homework anxiety .

Next steps

Parents and caregivers: It’s common for families to have trouble helping kids with homework, including math homework. Get answers to common questions about homework and ways you can help your child. Use these conversation starters to reach out to your child’s teacher for more support with math homework.   

Educators: Learn more about using evidence-based math practices to teach your students. 

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Strategies and tips Math School struggles

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