I can’t dive head first into a math worksheet when helping with homework. I can fake it for a moment, but invariably that falls apart. In reality, it takes me some time to catch on to what is being taught, and how they want the concept presented to the student.

Concepts are being taught differently. In some cases, even cross-multiplying has been taken off the table, and that was one of my favorites. When I sat for the GRE, my internal mantra was, “when in doubt, cross multiply.” It worked.

So the question is, how to get up to speed — and quickly.

Here is what has worked:

1. Grab the worksheets and take a time out on the sofa while little one has a snack and break time.

Then I know what needs to be covered and am not caught off guard in the moment.

2. Look it up if I don’t get it or if I simply need a refresher. I try the following:

Google image search – gives me a quick fly-by of the concepts so I can tell at first glance what matches up with what we are studying. I find it much faster than digging through text search results.

Khan Academy – Brilliant

YouTube –  Of course

One of my favorite print resources is this handbook from Great Source – It is a few years older at this point, but it is simply a visual dictionary of math concepts so it won’t go out of style.*

3. Stay cool and ask questions to get the student on board with the concept.

My student was most probably taught the concept in school (unless they had a busy day and did not get to it). With a bit of review, the concept should come tumbling back into mind. It’s in there. Reach for the “Oh, yeah!” moment.

I remind myself that I am not alone by watching The Math Class from The Middle. The scenes that show the parents helping with homework are priceless — worth much more than the $1.99 I spent for the SD version.*

Update – just saw this today on Twitter: One school district holds parent information nights

*This is not a sponsored blog post. But when I totally love something, I will share it.

Photo credit: © Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-nclc-05022, photographer: Hine, Lewis Wickes / National Child Labor Committee

Homework Strategies: When the Homework Doesn’t Make Sense to You Either