math help

Math Isn’t So Scary With Help From These Monsters : NPR

I do love Math in that silly non-reciprocal way, because Math often does not love me. I like the logic and beauty of Math, I do not love the rigidness of Math. Sometimes Math refuses to make sense to me, sometimes I am unable to grasp what Math is telling me, maybe sometimes I am not fully engaged and listening…maybe.

When I access my Math Brain, I can understand it, Math, that is. I have one, a Math Brain, I just do not always choose to engage it. It is a choice, for me, anyway. I can feel myself grasping for my sense of numerative-ness, it’s sort of like looking for your keys when you can’t find them at first – not the panicky part that happens later – just the sort of searching, reaching, wondering part.  Some people have more immediate access to their Math Brains, sometimes, I understand, these Math Brains do not shut off and these people are hugely talented/gifted/good in Math. These people may never search for a prime number, a multiplication fact, an algebraic equation. They know when a quadratic equation is staring them down and what to do with it (I call my dad).

Lately, when faced with Math homework help questions, I have adopted a new strategy. I do not try to figure out the problem ahead of my child (usually a useless exercise) but instead, I listen. I sit down next to my child and say, “Show me the problem” and “Explain what you are supposed to do”.  As it is explained to me, I listen with full attention and engage that somewhat dusty corner of my brain, the part that doesn’t make up stories or get caught up in rapture over a color or an outline or a tree or a hawk. I listen. I am present in the moment.  As the problem is explained (step by step as the teacher taught it), I ask questions, and the answer reveals itself and I understand and my child understands.  This is not the Math of my childhood. This Math isn’t forced or fraught with anxiety, it isn’t tearful or frustrated. This is a new way of looking at Math for me, a better way, a way that my children have shown me. I am good at Math.

I like this book because it is beautiful and whimsical and colorful and fun while it teaches math, who can ask for more than that? Numbers are represented by monsters, pretty, math-y monsters. This is a great book to help children to understand prime numbers (only divisible by itself and 1) and composite numbers (divisible by numbers other than 1 and itself). It shows the numbers as having personalities, colors and shapes, and that, I understand, is how Math Brains are engaged.

Math Isn’t So Scary With Help From These Monsters : NPR.

Back to School – Math help is on the way!

I see happy smiling moms trawling the aisles of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, grocery shopping alone is a luxury many had to forgo for the summer….it’s the little things, I tell you.  Sometimes I see those same moms at the mall returning garments deemed unacceptable by their off-spring …or maybe that is just me. I see smiling faces of children greeting friends that they haven’t seen all summer but from the mom-talk in the neighborhood, I also know that quite a few are unhappy at the prospect of buckling down to school work.

Transitions are tough for kids – even the most resilient and bouncy are somewhat thrown by this new change in routine. Be sure to ask – and really listen  to what they are telling you – not just the dead-end question, “How was your day?” but “Who did you have lunch with?” “Was the bus on time?” (guaranteed to get a funny bus story) or “How is it going in Math? Are you doing (insert area of previous frustration…long division, fractions…here) yet?”

It is easy to let things ride (slide) as the school years starts up – there are back to school events and easy get-to-know you assignments and review. Tons of review, especially in math. That’s fine if you are confident that your child is in general up to speed in the subject, but when a bigger transition year (4th to 5th grade, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school come to mind) is underway, it is a good idea to build the support in early.

Call the tutor or be prepared to dust off your pre-algebra brain (mine is too dusty to access – guess which route I take?) – you have a short window (September, usually) before new topics are introduced.

The tutor is always a good resource and we have a great one- but is not always needed – there is an on-line math help program that I found through a neighbor called Ten Marks (I wrote about it here ).  It is an individualized program and really well-designed – there are games and incentives and it is fun. Really, even I think it is fun. One of their pages has even been picked by a Minnesotan Homeschooler as her top great pages on Facebook (see below). If you are homeschooling, it goes without saying that you are really particular (I applaud you and know I couldn’t do it) and I am glad for great math program finds.

On-line math and apps are always more fun than worksheets – give these a try. Chances are your kids won’t even notice – or care – that they are honing math skills because it is so much fun. So here are some sanity saving games and apps for math- yes, you are welcome.

Five great math pages on Facebook from Alicia Bayer and her husband who homeschool their four children (ages two to eleven) in Westbrook, Minnesota. She blogs about their homeschool life at

I also found on Geek Dad’s picks for some cool apps

and another really great site moms with apps

Since I was reeling through the world wide web anyway, I googled ‘Back to school advice’ – Wow. Pages upon pages and some really great articles. Here is a rule I didn’t know but am instituting pronto.

The 5-2-1-0 rule (I like the premise plus it ties into this math-y post) from Dr. Randolph Nunez, a pediatrician at Lincoln Hospital in New York:

— Five servings of fruits and vegetables.

— Two hours or less of non-homework screen time. Kids exposed to many hours of television, video games, cell phones and computers have decreased school performance.

— One hour of exercise.

— Zero candy, juice or soda loaded with sugar.

Come to think of it – that’s a good rule for anyone.

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