Math’s Too Hard for a Parent’s HelpBy Lisa Belkin
When my children were toddlers I told my science-researcher husband that he had better stay healthy, and look both ways before crossing the street, because if anything ever happened to him our boys would never get through high school math.
Numbers have never been my strong suit, and as it happens I couldn’t really help with math and science homework sometime in middle school. Not only was whatever I once knew rusty, but it was also out of date. “They don’t teach it like that any more” I was told, and then dismissed.
Now comes a study by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates on behalf of Intel, to tell me I am not alone. Parents would rather talk to their kids about sex and drugs than math and science, the survey of 561 parents found. More than half say they have trouble helping their kids with these subjects, and it gets more difficult as the students get older.
There are a variety of reasons for this. Some, like me, simply don’t understand the subjects well enough to teach them. Others, like Curtis Silver, who writes about parenting for the Wired website, say they have too deep an understanding of the subjects. “Even I have trouble helping with math and science sometimes,” he writes. “Not because I’m not knowledgeable, but because it’s hard to transfer my knowledge to that of an 8-year-old.”
Whatever our reasons, it’s not as if our children are doing stunningly well without us. The National Assessment of Educational Progress report released last week (you may have heard it referred to as “the nation’s report card”) found that less than 40 percent of fourth and eighth graders are rated “proficient” or above in math.
Are you qualified to help with math and science homework? Are your child’s feelings about the sciences affected by your own?