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How Much Help Is Enough?Homework: How Much Help Is Enough?

Your student is learning how to learn! Here are some suggestions for supporting a growth mindset in your student, encouraging effort and critical thinking WITHOUT rescuing them. "Help" at home should always be about the student's thinking and the student's learning.

If you personally enjoy mathematics, you can let it rub off on them by appreciating their strategies and efforts, which may look different than yours.

If you personally have negative feelings about mathematics, please set them aside and allow your student to see themselves as capable learners.

Help your child think through the problem and make some decisions on their own about how to proceed. Have them look up a confusing word, ask them why they think their current strategy isn’t working, help them see that some of their numbers make no sense, help them break a problem down into smaller parts, encourage them to make full sense of the situation before they tackle the question, or ask them to draw a picture that may shed some light on a complicated problem.

Here are some examples of some really GREAT things to say to your kid. It is important to praise their effort, not their intelligence. Studies show that this has a positive effect on their internal beliefs about their capabilities and encourages them to take risks and persist with harder problems.


“You worked hard to make sense of this problem. You identified the parts that were confusing you and wrote some questions. This was a lot of work but you are now prepared for tomorrow.”

“You put a lot of effort into understanding why your mistakes were incorrect. Now your understanding has increased and you’re are ready to retake that assessment!”

“I like they way you tried different strategies on this problem and never gave up. What did you discover in this process? Why does that last strategy work here?

“I am impressed by the way you used your mistakes to learn.”

“I am proud of you for taking on the more challenging parts of this concept. It will take more work, but you are going to learn a lot of great things.”

“I know school used to feel easy for you and you used to feel like the smart kid in the class all the time. But the truth is, you weren’t using your brain to the fullest; school felt easy because you always took the easiest path. I’m really excited about how you’re stretching yourself now and working so hard to learn new things, and understand them deeply."

"Wow, that assignment was challenging! I really admire they way you concentrated and managed your time to finish it on time."

“I would solve this problem in a different way, but then I have had different math experiences than you. I am interested in hearing about your strategy and your thinking; maybe I will learn something from you!”

"You really persevered. How do you feel?"

"You are clearly working hard, but let’s put our heads together to figure out what’s getting in the way of your understanding. Sometimes a good question sheds light on the problem."

“We all have different learning curves for different things. It may take more time or more support for you to catch on to this and be comfortable with it. Let’s figure out a time you can stay after school to work with your teacher."

“Let’s identify exactly where you get confused. Would you like me to help you write a question to ask your teacher?"

"Is there something in the directions that are confusing you? I can help you understand them without telling you what strategy to use."

"What have you been working on in class recently? What do you already know that you can put to use here?"

"It looks like you are getting really frustrated with this assignment. Let me help you identify what is getting in the way before you continue."

"Tell me about what you are learning in math class. What kinds of activities are you doing to learn these things?"

"I know you are disappointed in your test, but the truth is, you have not been putting in the effort. If this is something you really want, then it’s something you’ll have to work really hard for.”



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Pat Ciula
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