Quick, solve this word problem: John had 30 coins. Some were nickels and the rest were dimes; their value added up to $2.10. How many were nickels and how many were dimes?*
What would you do if Junior asked your help figuring out that algebra homework? "If parents are confident in the content area and have that kind of knowledge, they can be a guide," says Merryl Rogers, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the South Huntington School District.
But what about when Mom and Dad are stumped? When the homework gets challenging, the challenged look for outside assistance. Here are some free local options for homework help.
Your Local Library
Many libraries have after-school, evening or weekend programs available to students in the local school district. The Patchogue-Medford Library, for instance, has a certified teacher to help elementary school children with homework from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday and 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Students should bring assignments; parents are welcome. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, math homework help is available to students in grades 6 through 12. Baldwin Public Library has a certified teacher available Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. for students in grades 2 through 12. Call your library for your district's local programming.
Your Child's School
The Brookside Elementary School in Baldwin, for instance, works with the Future Teachers Club at Baldwin Senior High School, bringing about a dozen high school students to the elementary school every Monday after school to help kindergarten through fifth-graders one-on-one. This is the second year of the program. "Not only are they homework helpers, but they become mentors to the children," says Brookside principal Ivy Sherman. Check with your child's guidance department for similar programming, or for volunteer tutors.
Suffolk Homework Help is a live, online service available to any student in grades kindergarten through 12 in Suffolk County who has a public library card. Visit suffolkhomeworkhelp.org seven days a week from 2 to 11 p.m. Tutors are available to conduct the session in English or Spanish. "Students can go on with a specific question in math, science, English or social studies. You type, and they type right back to you," says Danielle Paisley, head of Young Adult/Audio Visual Services at the Patchogue-Medford Library. "They won't give you the answer, but they'll work through the problem with the student. They'll ask where the student's getting stuck."
More than 50 of Nassau County's libraries also subscribe to an interactive service that offers online help to students with library cards. It's available from 2 to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Visit nassaulibrary.org.
HELP BY PHONE
Dial-A-Teacher, 212-777-3380, is for elementary and middle school students. Classroom teachers are available from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; they also can answer parents' questions on how to best help kids. Teachers speak 12 languages. The hotline is run by the New York City's United Federation of Teachers, in conjunction with the city's education department.
HELP YOUR CHILD YOURSELF
Want to help your child yourself? You can go back to school. Suffolk offers several classes specifically for parents who want to brush up on their skills so they can help their children in math, science and critical thinking. The classes aren't free, but they may wind up being a promising investment. Spring semester starts at the end of January; course sign-up starts the end of November.
The description for "Elementary and Secondary School Mathematics for Parents and Guardians," for instance, says: "Changes in curriculum and lack of recall often render adults helpless when they try to assist their children with mathematics." In four sessions, for $108, the class will explain topics from elementary math through high school algebra.
"What's being taught in school today and how students need to respond is different than the way we learned," says Mary Lou Araneo, vice president for institutional advancement at the college. "The reason we developed these was people were saying, 'I'm not sure how to help my child.'"
*Solution: 12 dimes and 18 nickels