Easing Parent Frustration: Emphasize Process over Score

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!

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.