Helping Your Child with Math ~ Questions to Ask

In recent days, I have had several conversations with parents about how to help their child with homework and how to gain a better understanding about what their child is learning in school.  Like most parents I also worry about my children’s academic progress.  There are countless worries, right? Often we get caught up in achievement, advancement and “success” rather than asking whether our child loves learning, reading or doing math and whether she sees herself as a competent learner.


Parents often ask, “how is my child doing compared to everyone else? Are they average? Are they lagging behind?”.  As parents, we do not get to be in the classroom to see how our child is working and whether their strategies for solving math problems or reading are effective.  This is where the teacher should share examples of work and provide descriptions and examples of what he sees the child doing in class. As parents, we can also ask more specific questions that can help us gain a better sense of how our child is doing.

To learn more about our child’s mathematical development we can ask questions such as the following:

  • How is my child doing with geometry and spatial relationships?
  • Does my child make connections between the real world and her knowledge of math?
  • Does my child use data and understand how it is used?
  • How does my child solve math problems? 
  • Does my child solve problems effectively?
  • Does my child see himself as a competent math student?
  • Does my child explain his thinking?*

*Questions taken from Beyond Arithmetic Changing Mathematics in the Elementary Classroom by Jan Mokros, Susan Jo Rusell, Karen Economopoulos.

Asking these kinds of questions can help make the conversation with a teacher more productive and lead to information about how you help your child at home.


Observing Your Child at Home

When your child is working on math problems, you can observe as they work.  The following questions can help focus your observations and interactions to provide insight into how your child thinks mathematically.  If your child is not used to having you ask questions, it may take time for her to get used to it the idea that you are interested in her thinking. This is about learning how your child is thinking not about doing math the right way or about getting the right answer.  Making errors and mistakes gives learners a chance to develop more effective strategies and learn to self-correct.

  • Does your child have a way to solve problems, or does he expect you tell him exactly what to do?
  • Can your child explain or tell what he is doing?
  • Does your child notice mistakes? 
  • Does you child know there are different ways to solve problems? “Is there a different way you could solve the problem?”
  • Does your child have a way to record her work, or does this seem difficult?
  • Does you child use materials or tools to help them with the math work?  Does she use the materials effectively?*

*Questions taken from Beyond Arithmetic Changing Mathematics in the Elementary Classroom by Jan Mokros, Susan Jo Rusell, Karen Economopoulos.

Whether your child attends school or is homeschooled it is worthwhile to take time to  look at their work and check-in with them as they work to gain insight into their thinking.  By showing sincere interest in your child’s ideas, your child will demonstrate his ideas more freely and develop ways to communicate his ideas.  You are not expected to know all the answers, you just need to be willing to work through ideas together.

Here is a printable, Math Observation Sheet, with the questions listed above for you refer to when your child is working.

Observation Sheets


In my next post, I will write about the ways to support a child’s reading development.  Similar to this post, I will provide prompts and questions you keep and mind and ask when your child is reading.

Published by

Maria Arana

Hi, I am Maria, a mom to three wonderful kiddos. My family and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. We love the beauty of the desert southwest. I am a former primary teacher and elementary math coach. I love to encourage my children to follow their interests and passions. At Guided Learning Studio, I offer private personalized lessons and enrichment classes. Tutoring services are best for families seeking long-term educational support over a semester or school-year.

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