Yes, I am creating a post to go over those math worksheets that seem to go home with every student each week. Since math worksheets are a common practice in most schools I wanted to include a little about them in the Homework Help series. First, let’s be clear about my position. In the classroom and at home, I do NOT TEACH my kids math concepts with the use of worksheets. I use manipulatives to model the WHY for a math concept.
Example: A lesson about Subtraction with Borrowing could easily have a numbers chart, base 10 blocks, or a small manipulative (beans) to SHOW the concept. As a teacher, I would go over the concept verbally. I would model the concept. We would do some problems together. I would constantly be checking for understanding!
So why do teachers send home worksheets for math? It’s because it is the only way to make sure the child is reinforcing the actual concept taught. A teacher can’t just write: Create and solve 10 subtraction problems. That is too broad because there are so many “levels” of subtraction problems. They might be able to write: Create and solve 10 3-digit subtraction problems where borrowing will occur in the tens and ones place.
In order to have the child practice the correct math concept, it is easier to just give them the problems that need to be reinforced. Parents need to be very careful when helping with these worksheets though. You should only help your student as needed and not try to teach them an “easier” or “quicker” way to solve the problem. There is a reason why math concepts are taught in a certain order. Math concepts build upon a foundation of understanding! If you are not sure on the concept or how to help your child, PLEASE ask their teacher for specific instructions.
So How Can You Help When Kids Are Working on Math Worksheets?
Strategies to Support Students with Math Worksheets
HW Given: Complete a math worksheet
Goal: To review a math concept taught in class
Study Strategy: Watch & Learn
Many math worksheets are given to students to take home to REINFORCE a concept taught in class. DO NOT let your student complete a whole worksheet incorrectly. It can get very confusing for a student to remember which way is the correct way if they were practicing it incorrectly.
The steps I usually take with a math worksheet are as follows:
Step 1) Go over the directions written. If a worksheet has multiple directions, then go to step 2 for EACH set of directions.
Step 2) Ask the student to complete 1 problem independently and WATCH the steps they take.
Example: The worksheet is reviewing borrowing from the tens place.
Does the student look at the ones place first? Do they cross off the digit in the top tens place? Do they add a one in front of the ones digit? Do they subtract from the ones place first? Is the answer correct?
* If they can independently do the problem correctly using the concept taught, then let them continue completing the worksheet. If they are struggling, then go to Step 3.
Step 3) Identify any steps that they missed or did incorrectly. If it wasn’t something you could SEE then ask the student to explain to you the steps they took.
Step 4) Explain the correct step(s) to the child. (Don’t waste time going over why the wrong method gave the student the wrong answer.)
Step 5) Have the student redo the same problem while you verbalize the correct steps as they demonstrate them. This goes back to giving the child a chance to see and hear the thought process (like we used back in the Sight Words post.)
Step 6) Ask the student to do the next problem independently. Make sure to WATCH that they are using the correct steps.
If there are still errors, I go back up to Step 3 and pinpoint why the error is occurring. Go through the steps making sure to only MODEL and VERBALIZE the correct steps.
Step 8) Decide if the math worksheet is something the student can complete independently and accurately.
If they can, then let them try.
If they can’t, then work through the worksheet with them.
Math isn’t easy for everyone! Even some concepts taught at the elementary level might require you to look at a textbook to remember the correct steps. When dealing with math worksheets, I find it is best to use the WATCH & LEARN strategy to help a student. It is very hard for a teacher to “fix” a concept that was taught incorrectly or out of logical order. Students may also get frustrated when they think they know an “easier” way to solve a math problem, but their teacher won’t let them.
Support your child and the teacher when it comes to math! If they are asked to show the math work, then cheer them along for following the directions even if it takes them a few extra minutes to complete the assignment.
Our Favorite Math Practice Set
Amazon affiliate links included for your convenience.
Over the summer and when there is a need for some extra math practice we like to use the Math Basics series from School Zone Interactive. They have just workbooks (that I use) or combo-sets that include a computer game. Right now we have the Grade 2 set.
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