Lisa Hatamoto, Founder of Inspiring Student Success and Raving Parent CPM Fan
Here is what I see most often when a parent attempts to help a frustrated child with CPM homework: first, the parent looks at the problem to determine whether he or she understands what is happening. Then, the parent guesses the “right way” to solve the problem – possibly using old methodology from when the parent was in school – and attempts to teach the child the “old way” of solving the problem.
This process not only aggravates parents, but is not helpful to the student because the child is not learning to take ownership for the math work.
What is the solution I emphasize to parents as their coach and pressure-free math specialist? Be open to how your children are already solving problems and enhance their way so it is their learning, not yours.
Teach the Child to be a Responsible Student
Yes, good grades are absolutely important. But more important than getting a good grade on the homework assignment is making sure that the student knows how to take themselves through the process of doing homework in the first place.
This is what I mean by being a responsible student: the child has strategies for approaching new problems that they have not seen before and the confidence to tackle them, rather than floundering and leaning on Mom or Dad to do the work for them.
As teachers and parents, it is our job to teach our middle-school aged children the process of homework. When they get to high school, chances are many parents may not understand the material at that point anyway! And although we might wish to, do not even think about trying to offer homework help when the student gets to college.
The 13 Ways to Get Unstuck
For the last 12 years I have collaborated with teachers as a K-8 parent aide successfully encouraging students to have a love for deeper learning. Recently in class, we asked our 7th grade CPM math students an important question: When you get stuck on a homework question you don’t know how to solve, what do you do?
On a whiteboard we took a poll asking the students for their best “get unstuck” strategies. From this poll, a list of the top 13 methods students used was created and shared – with many great ideas (including using the CPM online homework help, calling a friend, and others).
Once we did this 5-minute activity, we did not have to lecture the students about taking initiative to finish their homework even when they did not understand the problems – they just did it on their own, because as a group, they created the necessary tools.
Ask the students in your class what methods they use to get unstuck when they see a math problem they are not sure about. You will be pleasantly surprised to see how they share their strategies and adopt new ones!