Homework Dilemma, Am I Really This Stupid?

Updated on September 23, 2012
K.S. asks from Littleton, CO
15 answers

So first of all, I am amazed at the homework my poor DD receives each night. Easily two hours worth- she is 12 and in the 7th grade. I am envious of those news stories where schools are cutting down. I don't think this helps her much, especially with me helping her!

So my main question. I try not to say things like "I suck at math" because I don't want her to feel like if I could never get it, then she won't either. But guess what? I suck at math. I can handle all other subjects, but I have always had this struggle. She brings home her textbook, so I am able to look at the instructions for how to solve problems, and can sometimes manage to figure it out and help her. But at the rate of 15 minutes of my learning for each problem, we'd be up all night to get through the page! What do you other math-challenged mamas and papas do? She usually does fine with math, so I don't think she needs a tutor. But where can I turn for help on nights when she needs help?

We were both nearly in tears last night, so frustrating! Thanks for any ideas or anything you have done. The funny and sad thing is that I actually have 2 advanced degrees, but I would fail middle school math, and it's only going to get worse!

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So What Happened?

First, when my subject says 'am I really this stupid' I guess I need to clarify for one of you. It's called sarcasm and/or self-depricating humor, just FYI. No need to be mean to those of us asking for genuine help.

Otherwise, great ideas so far! I appreciate the support, sisterhood, and empathy!! My husband travels so he is sometimes available to skype and help, but often this is just not possible. Otherwise, no one available to call. I must check out the website lots of you mentioned and the books. Plus the library- hadn't thought of that, I'll bet there's something!

Keep 'em coming, I'll solve this problem yet! And thanks again for the support!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I hired an algebra tutor for my daughter last year in 8th grade. Although I tutored Quantive Methods I and II in college and I too have an advanced degree I simply didn't remember it. It was the best money I ever spent.

Edit: my daughter is in the gifted program and still struggles with math. Math just sucks:). Don't feel bad about it.

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answers from Dallas on

I taught middle school math. You are definitely NOT alone. THis is one of the reasons they say not to give pages of math homework. If you can't do one, you won't be able to do 20. But I suppose my rant is not helpful. ;)

Contact the teacher. Let her know your dilemma. Many math teachers have tutoring/ homework time available. I know I was available before and after school to help kids. Most of that time was spent going over homework.

As a side note, instead of thinking you suck at math, just remind her that it has been a long time since you have had to solve those kinds of problems. Focus on the time lapse, not that you never mastered this math.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I homeschool and math was never my strong suit. Although I have to say if I had to take it now, I would do much better. Sure I made it to Trig, but it was a hard fought battle for me. I found a really good site when I have questions and it is super easy to follow.


My older kids (public school) even used it after I stumbled across it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Our daughter was in Algebra in 7th grade. We hired a tutor. I just admitted, I had never been good at math and I am a terrible teacher. I was not embarrassed, I was honest.

She knew this and worked as much as she could with her math teacher, before and after school, and then we went to a tutor, who was amazing!!!!

This tutor worked with our daughter all through high school with calculus and trigonometry.. When it was time to take the SAT, our daughter had to use the tutor to help daughter review Algebra, since it had been so long since she had taken the courses and she could not remember the formulas!!!

If you feel the math is too advanced, see if she can be moved to a different level. Ask about in school tutoring.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I used to call up my friends for the tough problems. I knew which ones would know not only the answer but how to get the answer.

Do you have a math-minded friend, a relative, or a neighbor who would be willing to be the math helper? I think a student needs a network of people who will help kids with homework. In an ideal world, there would be! (In a really ideal world, there wouldn't be any hard math problems.)

My older granddaughters can usually depend on their mother to help them with the really hard questions in most subjects. But when it comes to math, they have an aunt who teaches the subject, and they call her! She's definitely not going to do the work for them, but she can clear up their confusion about a problem.

I would be better at helping with reading or spelling, or even history. Math? Not beyond fourth grade, I'm afraid.



answers from Green Bay on

I understand the math can get difficult to help with especially when the last math class I took was over 20 years ago. Does your daughter's book have a website attached to it for help? My daughter's did last year and that was helpful. Also make sure she is writing down the examples the teacher gives in class because those help a lot. Another website to check out is the Khan Academy they show you step by step how to do any kind of math problem.

I totally agree with you that too much homework is not productive! My daughter was in that situation last year in 6th grade, some nights all she would do is go to her 1.5 hour sport practice and do homework till bedtime. Fortunately enough parents complained and the teachers let up a bit. There needs to be a balance!

Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

I've been using the site khanacademy.org to help with my math issues. Granted my daughter is only in 3rd grade but I know that soon enough she'll be coming to me with questions that I have not tackled in well over a decade. Try to help yourself improve your math abilities and also at the same time get a tutor for your daughter to help her out. I'm not sure what type(s) of math your daughter is working on but know that with perseverance she can do well.



answers from Kansas City on

The teaching materials used by our school district are absolutly useless, so I bought a book. Math On Call, it is a great book and is written the way all math books should be written: here is how this is done, if you don't understand it that way, here is another way to look at it. I know they have books dedicated to Algebra and Geometry as well. I suck at math too and this is the only way I can help my son.

Good Luck!!



answers from Boston on

I , myself am worried about this too. My son is in 3rd grade, but I know once he gets to middle school/jr. high, that's when I won't be able to help him anymore. I know my weakness, and it's math. I had to be tutored in COLLEGE by my own brother who is 4 years younger. That was in Basic Algebra, too.

So, I would find someone else you know that is skilled in Mathematics to help out. If not, I would inform her math teacher that you both are having difficulties, and if he could set her up with a student tutor. It often helps to have someone your own age to assist. I think that's what I will do if my husband is working !



answers from St. Louis on

Get a math tutor or see if she has a friend who could come over and help her. The tutor could be 2x a week and assist with homework. That would cut back on your frustration...



answers from Minneapolis on

I have a 10 year-old fifth grader in advanced math, so we haven't hit 7th grade subject matter yet, but I don't help her much with her math homework. I am surely available to give suggestions, ask questions, or encourage, but I don't feel it's my job to teach her math. In fact, we've been told by the school not to (since I was taught a whole different way back in the 70s when I was in jr. high and high school).

If my daughter was having that much trouble with her homework, I'd first speak with her teacher. The teacher needs to know how long it is taking her and how much help you are needing to give. If that doesn't lead to changes, then I would absolutely consider finding her a tutor.



answers from Dallas on

When I was in college, I saw a posting at the college to be a tutor. I was hired to help a little boy with his spelling and his reading after school. The mother worked a hectic schedule and did not have time to help him. While I scanned the want ads, I noticed the need for math tutors as well. Post an ad at the local college that you need a math tutor for your daughter. I did not get paid a lot but it was enough for extra spending money.

Also, talk with her math teacher and ask if there are any students who love math or are in advanced math classes that would be willing to tutor her. The teacher may be willing to work after hours helping her if you let him/her know that you are struggling to help her.

Go to Sylvan or one of those after school places that tutor children. Sometimes the local library has after school tutoring programs and those are free because people volunteer their time.



answers from Boston on

I think this is a situation where letting the teacher know that she tried and struggled with something is the way to go. The teacher won't know what the students didn't understand and what she needs to go over again unless the students come in and say "wow I was totally lost on homework last night." Also, middle school is a time when many teachers stay after school for an hour to give extra help to anyone who needs it. She should see if her teacher has office hours after school and avail herself of the opportunity to get the extra help that she needs from the teacher.

The thing with math at this age is that teaching order and teaching methods vary widely from curriculum to curriculum. I teach SAT prep part time. Math was never my strength but I know pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry and the half of algebra II cold. Yet I was not a good fit for helping my SD when she switched schools in 7th grade and had to catch up to a more advanced curriculum. I would teach her how to do a problem the way I knew how to do it (which would yield the right answer) but it wasn't the 7th grade methodology that she was learning in class, so I heard lots of "that's not how we do it in school" and "that can't be right." So she learned to stay after school and do her homework with the teacher right there to answer any question she had.

Our local library has an subscription to a free on-line tutoring program. I don't know the name of it, but check around to see if there's a similar resource in your area. That might be a good resource for when she's not completely lost, but just needs help getting through one step.

The general rule to remember, if she is in pre-algebra or a precursor to that, is that if she needs to solve for a variable, you just do the same thing to both sides until the variable is alone. That may not apply to what she's working on, but I remember having to repeat that to both of my oldest kids and take them through how to do that step by step again and again.


answers from Dallas on

You've already gotten some great suggestions! I just wanted to let you know that I teach AP English, but I can't do math to save my life. My third grader asks for help now and then with math homework, and I send him to his father, or his brother who is in high school. It's awful. At least you made it to 7th grade. :)



answers from Knoxville on

Do you have a friend or family member you can call for the hard problems? My little cousins used to call my dad for help with their math homework. It was adorable. My dad was never really a 'go-to uncle' for anything else, but he was the first they would call if they couldn't work out an algebra equation. And my dad is a life long blue collar guy, not a teacher or anything like that...he just happens to be a whiz at math. Maybe you've got a secret resource like that somewhere too. Good luck!!

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