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What Parents Ask

My child completes all of their homework and their score is 100% but they do poorly on tests and quizzes. What should I do?

There are 3 crucial differences between tests and homework.

1. Level of difficulty.
This is a plague in the school system. Teachers tend to asign random, often not-too-challenging problems for homework yet give students difficult problems on tests, that students simply aren’t prepared for. Somehow, students are expected to bridge the gap. To “figure it out.” It’s the equivalent of expecting a driver to race a car, because she learned how to drive down the street (it’s ridiculous).
This approach comes from complete lack of understanding of how learning works – students need to be gradually moved from basic problems, to intermediate to advanced. Different types of problems have different levels of complexity that need to be explained.
Every level has their own unique challenges. For example at the highest level, your child will face advanced fundamentals that aren’t present at a basic level, and have nothing to do with the actual concept their currently learning.

2. Circumstances.
Your child can do homework on their own, with their notes and textbook open to look up solutions, facetime their friends for help, while watching netflix and sipping on hot chocolate. No stress, no pressure.
Tests are opposite. Your child will have to solve problems under time pressure. They won’t be allowed to use their notes or textbook. If, on top of that, the problems on the test are different from the ones in homework, the situation becomes very difficult.
Add to that the social pressure to do well, friends leaving the classroom earlier and you get the picture.

3. Correct vs Complete vs Done.
Did your child really finish their homework?
Homework is considered:
correct – when your child gets the right answer to all of the problems.
complete – when your child filled up the page with their solutions (not necessarily correct or even relevant).
done – when your child completed the homework, analyzed the problems they solved incorrectly, fixed their mistakes and solved similar problems to check their understanding.

Which type of homework do you think is the most effective?
Which type of homework do you think is used at school?

A lot of teachers mark homework complete or incomplete, without actually checking the content of your child’s solutions.
In that case, your child may as well not do anything because it’s a complete waste of time.
Your teen knows that the homework isn’t being checked. Also, even if they make mistakes, they won’t know about them, let alone learn from them!
A lot of teachers also mark homework “correct” or “incorrect.”
In that case, the process is missing the most important part: LEARNING. Your child needs to analyze the problems they missed and correct them and then solve similar problems to solidify their understanding. That’s where the actual learning happens!
The last type is the one we, at Learn Vibrant, believe in and practice.
That’s how we help our students progress.
We give our students extra practice that they need to solve independently, without time limit.
Then, we check their homework and help them analyze their mistakes. This is the critical part of learning. We also review with them any secondary concepts they are struggling with. After that, we follow up with the round 2, where the child solves problems very similar to the ones from round 1. Now, they are equipped with the practical understanding they gained from the analysis of their own mistakes.
They know how to solve the problems, they know what to expect and they’re ready to overcome the challenges they didn’t manage to overcome last time.

That’s the most effective type you surely won’t see at your child’s school.

My child understands everything in class but can’t complete their homework.
What should I do?

Reason 1: They don’t really understand it – they passively follow along.

Your child’s classroom is likely a passive environment. The teacher shows the problems on the board and maybe solves a couple examples. Students copy the solutions to their notes. The teacher hands out homework. The end.

In other words, your child learns nothing in class.

There is a giant gap to be bridged between watching someone solve a problem, and understanding the steps, and being able to solve even the exact same problem on your own.

Reason 2: Homework is different from what they’re covering in class.

We have heard many stories from parents of many high school and middle schoolers in the Bay Area.
About teachers only covering the simple examples, leaving everything else for the students to figure out on their own because “there isn’t enough time.” Teachers refusing to answer questions and telling students to ask other students for help. Teachers assigning homework on the material they didn’t cover because they weren’t present. Substitute teachers giving out worksheets and homework on the material students haven’t learned.
Your child may have fallen victim to that.

Reason 3: Concepts are shown but not explained.

A lot of times classroom learning is based on following along and watching the teacher solve problems. That’s not how learning works and we cannot expect your child to actually progress this way. Yet, that’s exactly what happens in many schools in the Bay Area. Your child needs to gain a practical understanding – understand how to use the math tools to solve problems. Not just passive understanding – memorizing the formulas and watching others solve problems. Your child needs to learn how to analyze and break problems down step by step, learn where these steps come from, how they form a logical flow leading them from the given information, through the use of math tools, to the final result. This understanding doesn’t come from passive learning.

My child hates math.
How can I change the way they see math?

Your child doesn’t hate math – they hate the way math makes them feel when they don’t get it.

Math makes them feel confused, stupid or inadequate. We have work with many teenagers who used to hate math. It’s not hard to believe since a lot of parents come to us when their children are struggling, failing tests, crying because of math or sacrificing sleep because of math. These same teenagers get motivated the moment they see that they can, in fact, do math. Your child needs to realize that math is not this random subject they can never get. Instead, it’s a science they can learn – and be good at.

Engage them in learning and exploring.

Ask open ended questions. Guide them through the process instead of giving them answers.
If the answer is incorrect, guide them through the solution to find the mistake.
Use the moments of doubt or confusion to help them brainstorm and explore. Encourage them to think about the problems without being afraid of being wrong. Show them special cases and unusual problems.

Make math clear and predictable.

Clarity breeds confidence. When your child doesn’t know what to do and how to start, they get frustrated. Wouldn’t you? When they make random mistakes along the way, they feel powerless and hopeless. It feels like they’re banging their head against the wall. Nothing is working, everything seems random and out of control.
You child needs a clear, structured, predictable path to follow. They need to understand every step of the way and practice following it.
They need to learn how to trouble shoot their mistakes, so that they can fix them or even prevent them from happening! They will stop feeling hopeless and frustrated. At that point, they are on a clear, straight path to skyrocketing their results.

Make math interesting.

We have heard many of our students say that “math is actually fun when they really understand it”.
However, homework and repetitive practice can make math boring and dull.
To keep it interesting, focus only on the problems your child doesn’t get. Mix in difference types of problems and increase the difficulty level as your child progresses. Cover 2-3 concepts at a time, to give your child variety.
For most difficult concepts, cover different angles and approaches to show your child how the elements connect.

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