Let’s face it: elementary school math might seem simple conceptually from an adult point of view, but it can be a little more challenging these days after years of disuse. Kids learn math and other subjects differently as the curriculums change, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them with the math homework they bring home. Simple math concepts, like addition and subtraction, are still skills we use today. The next time your child asks for some help with their math homework, here are some tips you can use to encourage their improvement. 

Ask Interesting Math Questions

Some word problems aren’t interesting, and while that shouldn’t be the only reason your child refuses to do math, sometimes creating word problems that interest them can help motivate them. If your child isn’t interested in how many apples John might have after eating 5, recreate the same word problem using a different topic to help motivate them more. 

Provide Positive Support for Homework

Establish a set of rules and homework expectations. Have a designated place for your child to sit and do their homework without distraction. Homework should be completed independently. Please refrain from showing your child how you learned to do something, as that method might differ from what is being taught at school. However, help with directions, reading the words, and getting started if necessary. Homework should be reviewed, so if your child becomes frustrated with the homework, please ask your child to stop. The goal of homework is not to cause frustration. The goal is to be able to work independently on previously taught concepts and skills for review.

Take It Slow

Math builds on itself, but it can be tricky to keep up if your child struggles with a new concept. When this happens, slow down and back up. Don’t keep pushing new ideas until they understand the old ones. 

This same advice works for you, too. Be patient with yourself — it’s been a while since you’ve learned 4th-grade math, and the work may look a lot different now. But with some time and perseverance, you can help your child succeed.

Ask Your Child to Teach You

Math looks a little different now. If your kid’s homework is confusing for you, ask them to explain their process. This is a great connecting moment to share with your child. And it can set you up to be a better helper if they run into frustration in later lessons.

Use Math Skills in Everyday Life

Give your child a calendar to keep track of his/her activities. Have him/her check the calendar daily and count the number of days left until some special event or vacation.

Cook, practice measuring ingredients, discuss fractional parts of a whole, set the timer, and notice how long something takes to cook.

Sort household items, pair up socks, count by two, and sort shells, blocks, and marbles based on different attributes.

Create pictures using shapes, cut out snowflakes and hearts using symmetry. Go on a shape hunt. How many triangles can you find? Rectangles?

Calculate how many slices of pizza (and then how many pies) to order to feed your family.

Practice Math Vocabulary

Math vocabulary surrounds us, but that doesn’t mean we’re very comfortable with it. Try using math vocabulary in everyday language; it will slowly start feeling less intimidating. For example, bring up percentages when shopping for a sale or talk about parts of a whole while cooking.

Of course, we don’t see many math words every day. Do you remember exponents, tangents, or the commutative property? If not, that’s totally okay! All you need is a refresher and some practice. 

For example, when your child is studying areas, take some time to make sure you understand what you’re actually discovering. Understanding the bigger concept (calculating the amount of surface space vs just plugging in length and width) is what will bring those light bulb moments. 

Play Math Games Online with Your Child

Math Playground: Math Playground is an extensive collection of math games that address a wide variety of math topics. Beyond the games are some opportunities for drill-like practice. The site also has worksheets, both online and printable.


Fun Brain Math: This website is for grades K-8. It has fun, interactive math games to review basic math skills.


Math IXL:  This website offers a drill-and-practice format and approach. IXL makes practicing math skills fun through rewards, immediate feedback, and visually appealing tasks.


Mr. Nussbaum: This website features a wide array of educational games and activities to help reinforce concepts and skills. Students will also find fun interactive games that focus on math and other subjects.


Education Place, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: This website offers math games, brainteasers, and extra practice.


National Library of Virtual Manipulatives: This website provides virtual manipulatives that students can use to solve math problems, such as base ten blocks.


Download Math Apps

Thinking Blocks: Thinking Blocks (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) teaches students how to model and solve math word problems. The models help students organize information and visualize number relationships.

Math Fluency Apps: These types of apps will help master the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts.

Stay Positive!

Regardless of your own experience with school mathematics, you can always encourage your child to develop a love for math. Always talk positively about math, support your child, and discuss math with them whenever you can, whether it be about a homework assignment or a real-world example. Keep asking your child questions, and let them explain math to you. Remember: math is thinking!