One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents on a regular basis usually revolves around how different “Math” is today. Often parents become confused and frustrated when their children come home with homework in math and when they attempt to help become faced with the fact that their child’s teacher “doesn’t do it like that.”

Today was parent conference day, and many of my discussions touched on this topic as well. Rest assured I understand the problem parents run into with the changes taking place in math instruction. I feel your pain. But…

I firmly believe the changes that have been made in math instruction since “We” were in school will benefit all students. Math in my classroom looks very different from math even a decade ago. The lessons are geared towards student led discussions, group learning activities, real world applications, and alternative strategies that support deeper understanding. Students are being prepared to teach each other, and explain how to solve problems. Students this year will be writing and journaling about math, too.

Because much of this is new to parents, I want to remind parents how I feel about homework. I consider homework practice. Students are actually allowed to make mistakes on homework. What I ask is that they do as much of it as they can, and that they come to class prepared to ask questions on the problems they do not understand. Also, I provide students with homework packets so that they can both work ahead in math, or work on problems at a slower pace. This should allow students to work at their pace and not feel the pressure of having nightly assignments over their head. I do collect homework packets on a regular basis as we complete sections of math, and I do assign a grade for having the packets completed, but I do not assign grades based on right or wrong. The grades are determined by effort in completing the work.

From what I’ve experienced so far this year, teaching math this way should benefit everyone, and the students I teach seem very excited with the way homework and math is done in my class. In fact, the greatest part of today’s meetings was hearing how supportive and understanding parents have become with the way we do math differently. Hang in there! And thanks for being a part of the learning process.

Here are some snapshots of us working in math.