The adage that children grow up too fast surely applies that first time they bring home algebra homework. They’ve brought home linear equations homework, but wasn’t it just yesterday that your kids were practicing addition with flash cards? Part of the reason this seems so soon is because it is sooner: As part of their math curriculum, many children are being taught algebra, a subject their parents likely didn’t learn until at least eighth grade. And they need some sixth-grade math help.
The topics in algebra taught at this age draw upon math skills already learned, but the introduction of new concepts, such as exponents, parentheses, and coefficients can overwhelm even the strongest math students. Help might be necessary for kids struggling with algebra. Some hard work may lie ahead, but sixth-graders can learn, and master algebra.
Parents can encourage their children to find ways to apply math to everyday situations. Older tweens might resist the math activities they enjoyed when they were younger, but you can still offer help that doesn’t involve formal homework. For example:
- Negative numbers: Challenge your kids to figure out problems that include negative numbers. For example, if your son’s allowance is $10 a week, and you buy him a new $75 scooter contingent on him applying that allowance to the cost, how much will he still be in the red after four weeks? The problem is purely hypothetical (you don’t have to buy your kids scooters to help with algebra!), but the goal is the same—thinking about negative numbers.
- Order of operations: A key concept algebra students must learn is the order of operations—what you do first in an equation. The order goes parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction—or PEMDAS for short. A popular method to remember this is the phrase “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” Challenge your kids to come up with other creative PEMDAS phrases. How about “Piranhas Eat Men Daily At Supper” or “Princely Elephants Make Dragons Appear Silly?” This is one of the best math help you can offer at sixth-grade —students will need to use PEMDAS for years.
- Even it out: Algebraic equations involve balancing—getting x on one side and the number on the other. This can throw off some students, but using pennies and quarters to illustrate equations can help. The quarters are x, the pennies are numbers. Set up an equation, say 3x+2=2x+6, using the coins, and actually add and remove them as needed. The physical depiction of the equation may be clearer to students than seeing it on a chalkboard. (Oh, the answer is x=4.)
A sixth-grade child struggling with algebra may need more structured math help beyond the extra worksheets and lessons you can find on the Web. If you are looking for tutoring options, online programs may provide a viable option with a curriculum geared towards a sixth-grade math help. Kids who feel overwhelmed with traditional teaching of algebra might benefit from an at-home, iPad-based instruction that offers personalized lesson plans and innovative techniques that can help them thrive.
Algebra Overload: Parent Edition
Many parents may feel challenged to offer help when the algebra that students encounter is over their heads as well. Don’t be afraid to relearn some of the concepts your kids are learning. Equation-solving websites are plentiful and easy to find; they aren’t necessarily recommended for students, but if you can’t quite figure out if your child arrived at a right answer, they can provide one and even show you how.
Does your child need sixth-grade math help with algebra?