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How to help your child with math

Middle and high school math teachers on Long

Middle and high school math teachers on Long Island offer their ideas on how parents can guide their kids to math success short of having to pay for a tutor. Credit: Handout

When your children are in elementary school, helping with their math homework is, well, elementary. But what happens when middle school and high school hit and math problems start to get a lot more complex?

"So many parents are in the same boat when it comes to that," says James Morris, math department chair at Calhoun High School in Merrick. "Once students get to the higher levels, it's a whole different ballgame."

Middle and high school math teachers on Long Island offered their ideas on how parents can guide their kids to math success short of having to pay for a tutor. Here's a 10-step guide that compiles their advice:

1. Don't bash math

Don't say, "I was terrible in math, too," Morris and other experts say. You would never say, "Oh, don't worry about it. I couldn't read, either."

2. Have your student review his notes 

"There's a big gap in time between math class and when they're doing their homework," says Denis Dagger, a math teacher at Grand Avenue Middle School in Bellmore. Kids should make a habit of looking over class notes before jumping into homework, he says.

3. Ask your child what the problem is looking for 

"Students get lost in the question," says Tim Izzo, a math teacher at Mount Sinai High School. Figuring out what's being asked can be half the battle.

4. Struggling isn't bad

"Sometimes I think the kids throw their hands up a little too quickly," says Sue Bailey, principal of the Oakdale Bohemia Middle School. "Make sure he has read the problem and tried it." Only then, offer more help.

5. Be the sounding board 

Ask your child to explain the process to you, even if you don't understand it yourself, says Mindy Spear, a first-grade teacher at Ann MacArthur Primary School in Locust Valley. You really master the material when you can explain it to someone else."

6. Check your child's textbook and resources 

Many times the book comes with a CD or online support that can be accessed at home with an ID provided by the school. "What the parents can do is go through a lesson the same way the student went through it," says Angelica Diaz, math director in the Riverhead School District.

7. Social media is your friend 

Facebook, Skype or Videochat with classmates who might be able to walk your child through a sticking point, Morris suggests. He recommends forming study groups so children can help each other through homework or studying for a test.

8. Harness the World Wide Web

Online video tutorials abound on YouTube and websites. Many teachers recommend the Khan Academy, where students can plug in a topic and see a demo. Teachers often keep their own e-boards and websites that walk students through problems. The Connetquot school district, for instance, has math work sheets, explanations and resources at, available to the public by clicking the departments tab and choosing math.

9. Document the issue 

Have your child do the steps she's comfortable with and then write down where she got stuck, says Colleen Annicelli, director of math for the Middle Country school district. "That will lead to more productive activity in the classroom."

10. Further help 

Enlist the teacher's help. "Maybe in class that student doesn't appear to be struggling. It's really important to communicate that frustrated, stuck feeling to the teacher," Diaz says. St. Joseph's College offers free live math tutoring Saturday mornings; the Suffolk County library system has free live tutoring help available online at from 2 to 11 p.m. Monday to Sunday; for Nassau, visit Consider peer tutoring.

Additional resources 


*"Math For Grownups: Relearn the Arithmetic You Forgot from School" by Laura Laing (Adams Media, $14.95)

*"Help Your Kids With Math: A Unique Step-by-Step Visual Guide," (DK Publishing, $19.95)

 *"Old Dogs, New Math: Homework help for Puzzled Parents" by Rob Eastaway and Mike Askew (The Experiment, $15.95)




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"Elementary and Secondary Mathematics for Parents and Guardians," 6 to 9 p.m. weekly Oct 6 to 27 at Suffolk Community College, Ammerman Campus, 533 College Rd., Selden, $108, go to, click on "Continuing Education" and then "Visit Our Department Site" at bottom right; 631-451-4114

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