Math homework

I can remember doing math homework at the kitchen table when I was in middle school and then high school.  Mom usually tried to help, but was the first to admit that her math skills were deficient once you got past basic math.  Algebra and geometry were beyond her; in fact, she told me once that she mostly sat and drew still life portraits during geometry in school.

Fast forward.

Mom has gone back to school and selected a business program which requires four math classes.  I spend at least an hour each week on the phone doing algebra homework with her, usually Sunday evening.  And my sister often does the same.  Mom is very diligent — she does the work, then calls us and gives us the problems and her answers, asking us to double check.  Sometimes she’s got it right; sometimes not.  But she REALLY doesn’t get some basic concepts, or the ideas about isolating variables or what slope actually is.  It worries me, because her methodology for solving some of the problems is to just start plugging in numbers and seeing if they work…sometimes this works, but it won’t always, and it is going to become a problem if/when she moves on to the next class.  And converting decimals to fractions is like a foreign country.

Our biggest problem on Sunday was converting an equation from the format of y = mx + b to Ax + By = C.  I think she was near tears at the end of that one, and while I could give her the answer, I couldn’t explain to her in a way that made sense how to get to that answer.

Is this what parents feel like when they are helping their children with homework?



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4 responses to “Math homework

  1. As a college student who’s very bad at math I can totally relate. What might help your mom, though, is if she took a developmental math course where they start with the basics and build up. Math is a cumulative subject and if you don’t have a good grasp on the fundamentals it will just get more and more difficult (and frustrating). I know from personal experience.
    I wish her the best with her course.

    • Thanks for the best wishes!
      Either Mom tested into this particular class, or her guidance/enrollment counselor suggested that she start here, but I’m thinking she may need to drop back a class or two.

  2. At least your mom is trying. My mother gets these quizzes for CE credits in x-ray and tries to bribe me to take them for her — when the answers are all right there in the articles of the journal issue containing said quiz.

  3. I think some people just have Arts brains. My mum is helping my niece (who dropped out of school with anxiety problems a couple of years ago) with her home-schooled Maths GCSE – and while she’s battling through the course, sometimes the most basic things aren’t obvious to her.
    My sister’s like that too – and so, to a lesser extent, is my daughter. (My daughter could get the answers because she was well taught – got an A in her Maths & a B in her Add. Maths: but she hated the subject, because she knew she didn’t understand the why of it.) I don’t think I ever found a way to bridge the gap – I remember spending an entire evening trying to explain negative numbers to her (she could manipulate them perfectly well, but couldn’t imagine what they were) – and I got absolutely nowhere.
    Marianne McA

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