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Classes boost parents' math skills

November 9, 2012
Kylie Saari - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - When Karla Lunn's oldest daughter reached second grade, Lunn realized something strange was going on in math class.

The problems were the same - addition, subtraction, word problems - but the way her daughter completed them was not even close to how Lunn learned to solve them.

"I was like, 'What are you doing?'" the Fairmont woman said.

It is a common problem for parents, as new mathematical methods have supplanted the tried-and-true ways taught years ago.

Gone is the use of zeroes as placeholders in double-digit multiplication. The new way is called the lattice method. No longer are numbers carried; now they are regrouped.

Lunn's daughter, Lexi, is now in sixth grade, and her teacher at Fairmont Area Schools caught on to the trouble parents were having helping their students. He is teaching a class on the second Monday of each month to parents of sixth-graders. The class shows parents how things are being taught and gives them a preview of what is coming up in class.

"I only get these kids 50 minutes out of the day," said sixth-grade math teacher Tyler Brackey. "Parents are an extremely valuable resource."

Lunn describes herself as proficient in math - it isn't her best subject, but it isn't her worst. And her two daughters don't struggle in math either, but they still need help sometimes.

"It isn't a lack of knowledge," she said. "I wanted to be able to teach it the same way as their teacher."

Brackey emphasized the same idea.

"It is not that the parents can't do the math," he said. "It is that they haven't had to do it in 20 years. We have been using a calculator since we passed eighth-grade math."

Brackey was a sixth-grader just 12 years ago, and how he was taught is already different than how he is teaching his students.

"The math is still the same; the method different," he said.

He said when parents sit down to help their sixth-grader, it can be frustrating for both sides because of the different ways to describe the same process.

"[The student's parent] is trying to teach them in a different language," Brackey said.

In addition to showing parents how he is teaching, Brackey shows them some resources they can use at home.

"Classes are strategically held around the unit test," he said, "so parents are prepared to help their student study and know what is coming up next."

The classes are available to all parents of sixth-graders - parochial or public. The next session is Monday, Nov. 12. All classes begin at 6 p.m. in room 107 at Fairmont Elementary School.



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