When it comes to your kid’s math skills, teachers are parents’ biggest ally. Day in and day out, they are the ones who see your child’s progress firsthand. But they have a lot on their plate — and may not be able to raise the warning flag right away. Here are some tools to help start — and continue — the conversation with your kid’s teachers.
Students perform better on tests and have a more positive attitude about learning when parents and teachers are on the same page and work together.
The parent-teacher conference is a great way to set this in motion. It’s also a great time to check in on your child’s math progress. Not sure where to begin? Here are some tips to make the most of it.
Prep Ahead of Time
- Gather and review your materials. This can include report cards, test scores and any previous or current school communication.
- Be familiar with math homework and how your child is doing. Do they understand what they’re learning? Does the work seem too hard or too easy?
- Talk to your kid. Conduct a math checkup to evaluate their understanding. How do they think they’re doing? Do they have any concerns about what they’re learning?
Ask Concrete Questions
You might not be an expert on school systems, but if you ask direct questions that focus on your child’s needs, you can easily get up to speed. Here’s a handy list to get you started.
- What are the must-have math skills my child needs to grasp this year?
- What diagnostic information have you gathered on the students this year?
- What gaps do these data show for my child? (See below for more insights on tests and how they highlight needs).
- What are the most important math skills we should practice at home?
- What other gaps in math does my child have that we can focus on at home?
- Is my child’s reading ability impacting their math work?
- In what ways is math being taught differently today compared to when I learned it? Are there resources you recommend so I can get up to speed to help my child more effectively?
- What are some math stretch goals for my child?
For children who are ahead: Often they are left idle while their peers catch up. This is no more acceptable than letting kids struggle. Ask these questions:
- In what areas do the diagnostic data show my child is ahead?
- How are you using this information to keep my child moving ahead and learning?
- What specific enrichment work or other resources do you recommend to challenge my child during school?
Your child’s report card might look fine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve mastered the skills for that grade. Ask for standardized test scores, either the state test or supplemental assessments from providers like iReady, NWEA MAP and Star Renaissance. They are a second opinion on your child’s true mastery, and they zero in on specific skills.
Find out what test(s) your school has administered, then ask your teacher:
- When did our school administer the standardized state test(s)?
- When will I get the results?
- Is the test digital? (If it is, push to see results as soon as possible! In this age, results should be available within weeks.)
- How are you using the diagnostic data to help close gaps for my child? Do you feel like the school values these data?
To learn more about assessments where you live, use our handy map of all 50 states and D.C.
Homework has been a controversial subject for decades. When it’s too hard and students come home unable to tackle it, it can destroy their self-esteem. When it’s too easy, kids become disengaged while going through the motions.
Yet the human brain does need to practice skills to become nimble and fluent. Like in sports, musical instruments and reading, they need to practice new math skills to master them. Practice just needs to be effective and rewarding!
Here’s how you can check whether your child’s homework is “working”:
- Does your child know how to begin? Is there enough understanding of the day’s key skill?
- How about the homework itself? Do the questions focus on content that’s correct for your grade? Does it look too easy? Too hard?
- Is your child doing the homework very slowly and painfully, or blasting through it without thinking? Either case means the homework is not achieving much for your child.
If you’re left wondering if your kid is tackling appropriate grade-level math skills, use our handy map of all 50 states and D.C.
Beyond the basic textbooks, workbooks and online content, schools often use learning platforms to report on grades, track absences, post new assignments and much more. Every school uses a different mix, which can be overwhelming for both parents and kids.
Ask your child’s teacher about some of the most widely used learning platforms, including PowerSchool, Canvas and Schoology. Your school’s website may also provide tutorials and support to understanding the technology and terminology of these or other services.
Ask the teacher what their preferred platform is, and make sure you’re up to date on how it works, how it’s used in class and how your kid interacts with it.
The technical details are far less important than establishing clear and regular communication with your kid’s teachers. It’s the only way to build a shared understanding of expectations and opportunities for your child. Never be afraid to ask. Teachers are your partners. They’ll appreciate your involvement and curiosity — remember, educators are in the business of “good questions,” so don’t hold back from asking!