Parents go back to school to be able to help kids with math homework

Some schools are trying to help parents adjust to Common Core by holding classes that teach them how to help their children with math homework. 

Steven Senne/AP
Fourth grade math teacher Felicia Connelly teaches Common Core math techniques during a workshop at a community center in Westerly, R.I. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help with homework.

The parental pushback against Common Core math has been fierce, but schools are trying different ways to enlist parents' aid, rather than ire, in the difficult transition period. 

Some schools are holding back-to-school nights for parents who say they need after-school guidance to help their children do their Common Core math homework. The Westerly Parent Academy in Rhode Island held a three-part series, "Parents Can Help With Math," so parents would find their children's homework less daunting. 

"If this doesn't make sense to us, how are we going to help him?" Matt Ezyk, a father of a kindergartner, told The Associated Press. 

Mr. Ezyk and his wife, Kate, decided to attend the help session after a nephew's homework had eluded his mother's math memories. They were worried they would not be able to help their own son when he began bringing math assignments home. 

In the 90-minute session, the Ezyks and other parents learned about the new vocabulary of math, including "doubles," "count on," and "bridge to 10." 

Sharing images of their children's inscrutable Common Core homework has become a pastime for parents who are frustrated they can't understand the math homework well enough to help. One father of a second-grader became so annoyed with the math homework that he wrote a check to his child's school, using the series of boxes seen in the new math curriculum for the amount of the check, then posted a photo on social media.

Another parent posted a homework assignment on Facebook in frustration after a child missed points for describing 5 x 3 as 5 + 5 + 5 instead of 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3. 

School administrators say that educating parents will in turn help children master their lessons.

"We want to develop flexible thinking, so if they hit a roadblock, they have multiple places they can go," Polly Gillie, principal of Dunn's Corners Elementary School told the AP. "It all comes back to real-world application and mental math."

Teachers in Oshkosh, Wis., also held a parent class and say the classes have helped with not only the math, but also aided frustrated parents.

"Parents say, 'This is crazy.' They have a misunderstanding of Common Core. They come in a little hot with misconceptions," Julie Holmes of the Oshkosh school district told the AP.

Her district has also been holding parent nights to persuade families to keep talking to their children about school, without giving up because they fear they will teach the new standards incorrectly.

"Ultimately, any time spent with a child talking about math is worthwhile time," Ms. Holmes said. 

This report includes material from The Associated Press. 

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