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. 

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gretchen Vierstra, MA is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the 

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.