# Curious - how to help with homework requiring skills not yet learned?

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### #1 SKL

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 07:59 PM

This happens from time to time with my kids' homework.  For example, today their 5th grade math homework was to solve some algebraic equations.  One of them required an understanding of negative numbers and the fact that negative times negative equals positive.  This has never been taught in their school yet.

Their school grades homework, so an answer needed to be provided.  I told my kids the simplest way to make the numbers positive.  I told them that if their teacher asked how they knew to do that, they could tell him I helped them with that.  I wondered if I should write a notation "mom helped" but decided not to.

So I'm curious - for kids in upper elementary / middle school, what is your policy with assignments that require not-yet-taught skills?

### #2 Heigh Ho

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:35 PM

Usually there is a way to figure it out using number sense. I have them attempt it .
Want to post it?

### #3 Tanaqui

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:36 PM

If I knew for sure that this had not yet been covered, I'd explain it to them but write a note on the page - "This was not taught in class and should not have been assigned as homework". Especially for negative x negative multiplication - that is NOT intuitive at all, so it's not something a kid would figure out just with some effort and thought.

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### #4 vonfirmath

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:37 PM

This happens from time to time with my kids' homework.  For example, today their 5th grade math homework was to solve some algebraic equations.  One of them required an understanding of negative numbers and the fact that negative times negative equals positive.  This has never been taught in their school yet.

Their school grades homework, so an answer needed to be provided.  I told my kids the simplest way to make the numbers positive.  I told them that if their teacher asked how they knew to do that, they could tell him I helped them with that.  I wondered if I should write a notation "mom helped" but decided not to.

So I'm curious - for kids in upper elementary / middle school, what is your policy with assignments that require not-yet-taught skills?

I'm never quite sure if it is not yet taught skills or if my son was not paying attention and so missed it.  (and they have already covered neg time neg is positive.)

I have my son try all his homework first. Then I grade and try to see where he is falling down and teach where stuff was missed.  If it is a puzzle, I will give hints because in that case the teacher wants the kids to figure it out.

### #5 EKS

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:40 PM

So I'm curious - for kids in upper elementary / middle school, what is your policy with assignments that require not-yet-taught skills?

My policy is that I teach them.  I assume that any skills that seem untaught have actually been taught and my kid missed it.  (Actually, I realize that LOTS of homework comes home requiring skills that haven't been taught--I guess it's just easier when the parents teach things!)

If the school specifically wants the kid to struggle with the homework, it needs to communicate that in advance and tell me the reasoning behind it.

Edited by EKS, 04 February 2017 - 08:42 PM.

### #6 Sneezyone

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:42 PM

We'd try to reason it out using the skills they do know. With that type of prob, for ex, we'd take away or add groups of minus five and use a number line.

So, if we started at -25 on the line, we might add -5 and move to -20 and so on.

If it was truly something that had never been covered, I'd teach it (or attempt to).

Edited by Sneezyone, 04 February 2017 - 08:47 PM.

### #7 SKL

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:53 PM

Usually there is a way to figure it out using number sense. I have them attempt it .
Want to post it?

There is another way I can easily see to do it, but my kids would not know why that would be easier because they have no experience with negative numbers to know to avoid them.

Anyway, this is just one example.  This general question comes up from time to time.

### #8 SKL

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 08:54 PM

I'm never quite sure if it is not yet taught skills or if my son was not paying attention and so missed it.  (and they have already covered neg time neg is positive.)

I have my son try all his homework first. Then I grade and try to see where he is falling down and teach where stuff was missed.  If it is a puzzle, I will give hints because in that case the teacher wants the kids to figure it out.

I have seen the kids' books and they did not cover it.  The school does not ever finish the textbooks, so that could be the reason.

### #9 Heigh Ho

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Posted 04 February 2017 - 09:08 PM

Fifth for us was filled with problems.that required number sense. It seemed to be a bizarre way of introducing concepts for the next few grades.

### #10 vonfirmath

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Posted 05 February 2017 - 07:45 PM

I have seen the kids' books and they did not cover it.  The school does not ever finish the textbooks, so that could be the reason.

Yeah. I'm not sure they teach math out of books here. The only book I ever see come home is at the end of the year -- the unused pages in the workbooks. During the year, they just send worksheets home.

### #11 mathnerd

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 01:41 PM

Does the teacher go through the answers for the homework problems in class the next day? That is usually when a teacher might realize that several kids did not know a particular concept and explains it. Check with your kids if this is the normal case. Homework is graded for completion and not accuracy.

Alternatively, you could write a note in the homework that the concept is new to the kids and request teacher to explain it as well.

### #12 SKL

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 02:34 PM

Does the teacher go through the answers for the homework problems in class the next day? That is usually when a teacher might realize that several kids did not know a particular concept and explains it. Check with your kids if this is the normal case. Homework is graded for completion and not accuracy.

Alternatively, you could write a note in the homework that the concept is new to the kids and request teacher to explain it as well.

In my kids' case, homework is graded for accuracy.

In the latest example, my kids made a point to tell the teacher that their mom suggested xyz.  They say the teacher chuckled and said that they haven't learned that skill yet and there was some other way they were supposed to do it.  However, my kids came home having no idea how to do it still.  They say many of the kids are confused.  My eldest asked me to re-teach the whole sub-unit to her, so we went over it some more.  (I gave my kids another idea that avoids negative numbers, but I still don't know what the teacher was expecting them to do on that type of problem.)

Today they had a quiz on these skills.  We'll see how it goes.

### #13 mathnerd

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 03:26 PM

...

the teacher chuckled and said that they haven't learned that skill yet and there was some other way they were supposed to do it.

Those two statements sound contradictory - checking homework for accuracy when the content has not been taught yet. I guess that it is time for mom to write a note to the teacher

### #14 Have kids -- will travel

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 06:39 PM

They say the teacher chuckled and said that they haven't learned that skill yet and there was some other way they were supposed to do it.  However, my kids came home having no idea how to do it still.  They say many of the kids are confused.

My parents weren't particularly mathy and ran into this problem when teaching my siblings. The child doesn't understand the homework, the parent tries to teach it in the wrong way, everyone ends up confused.

I knew a family that ran into this where I live, and they started outsourcing math to a tutor.

I'm thinking it may be time for you to tell your children to get help at school when the math isn't making sense, or find a mathy tutor, rather than continue afterschooling.

You can post the problem they were having and see if we can help explain the answer without the negative number "trick."

### #15 SKL

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Posted 07 February 2017 - 11:42 PM

My parents weren't particularly mathy and ran into this problem when teaching my siblings. The child doesn't understand the homework, the parent tries to teach it in the wrong way, everyone ends up confused.

I knew a family that ran into this where I live, and they started outsourcing math to a tutor.

I'm thinking it may be time for you to tell your children to get help at school when the math isn't making sense, or find a mathy tutor, rather than continue afterschooling.

You can post the problem they were having and see if we can help explain the answer without the negative number "trick."

I am plenty mathy.  Granted, I don't always know what the textbook writer is thinking (I think their methods are often jacked-up) but we eventually get it down.  The question was more how others deal with the fact that homework is assigned that their kids don't know how to do after being instructed at school.  I have taught my kid a great deal of math and despite learning difficulties, she's an A student.  Most of the time my teaching does not conflict with what they do at school.  But yeah, occasionally the curriculum goes off in a direction that is neither familiar nor intuitive to me or to anyone not specifically trained in that method.

I did suggest going to school early and asking the teacher, and my kids have done that before; but in this case, my daughter felt that would be less helpful than going over it with me at home.  Possibly because I have more time to offer her.

I should note that this week's issue is not with all the exercises on the homework, but just one on each set of problems.

### #16 Bluegoat

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Posted 09 February 2017 - 12:31 PM

This is why I think homework  is often less than helpful in elementary school.  If kids go home and need help, how is that supposed to be work they can do at home?  Obviously they need more instruction, not homework.

### #17 SKL

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Posted 09 February 2017 - 01:15 PM

FTR I do not mind teaching at home.  For one of my kids, it has made a lot of difference, especially when she was younger.  Whether it gives the teacher the right feedback on his teaching is a different question.  He does offer to help confused kids in the morning before school, but that doesn't work for bus riders.  So I guess he will have to get his feedback from other people's kids.

### #18 pkbab5

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Posted 10 February 2017 - 05:08 PM

I just teach it.  That's the point, right?  That they learn it somehow?  If I can teach it, then I do.  I won't give answers though, I try and teach the concepts and examples, but make them figure out the homework problem for themselves.

### #19 Daria

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 02:51 PM

I am curious what the problem is?