Math homework is harder and more confusing than ever before, most parents agree

NEW YORK — Many say things aren’t as simple as they used to be. You can apparently add math to that list as well. More than half (56%) of parents in a new survey say they feel hopeless when trying to help their children with homework. Two-thirds of parents will even turn to Google to figure out how to help their child finish their assignment.

A survey of 2,000 American parents with school-aged children asked how sharp their math skills were and how they approach their kid’s homework. Although 79 percent of parents can recall the things they learned in school, nearly as many (70%) say it’s harder for them to solve their kid’s math homework today.

Putting those skills to the test, 42 percent of respondents were able to solve the OnePoll study’s equations correctly. Barely half (51%) of the poll recall the proper order of math operations (PEMDAS) — or Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division (from left to right), Addition and Subtraction (from left to right).

Not-so-elementary math skills

When asked to solve 8/2(2+2), two-thirds of parents got the correct answer, which is 16. However, when asked to solve 9-3/(⅓)+1, only 17 percent used the proper method to solve the equation, with the answer being one.

Three-quarters of American parents say they can do basic math in their heads. On average, they will use mental math five times per day. Despite having the ability, 75 percent will still use a calculator to double-check their figures.

Math Homework ParentsThe survey, commissioned by Photomath, a homework assistance app designed to explain math problems and teach math concepts, also finds that while parents may feel comfortable in their own math skills, they are less confident helping their kids with homework.

On average, kids will ask their parents for homework help five times per week. When this happens, more than six in 10 couples (63%) will negotiate who is going to help the kids finish their homework. For 85 percent of parents, the negotiations actually break down into a full-fledged argument.

Fifty-four percent of parents will try to find a way to get out of helping their child with homework. Parents have claimed to be too tired, busy doing chores, or stuck on work calls.

“I’ve claimed I need to go emergency grocery shopping,” one parent admits.

“As a parent myself, I know these feelings well,” says Jennifer Lee, Vice-President at Photomath, in a statement. “We want our kids to succeed, but when difficult subjects like math come up, it’s not unusual for us to feel hesitation or even anxiety come homework time. Parents don’t want to lead their kids astray. Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen over 3x the number of new parents download the app each week as they increasingly look for new ways to help their kids in school, even from home.”

Is this even the same arithmetic parents learned in school?

Math Homework ParentsMore than 60 percent (65%) of parents say they don’t remember math being so hard when they were in school. When asked what best describes why math seems harder, 56 percent said their child is learning math differently than they did.

For 41 percent, math seems harder because they only retained math that they use on a daily basis. Meanwhile, 39 percent of the poll said they didn’t keep up-to-date with math at all. Two-thirds of respondents said classes and subjects they struggled with in school give them stress even now when they are helping their kids with homework.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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