Annenberg MediaMy oldest daughter, who is a freshman in high school, had the all too common experience of needing help with her homework. This is makeup work from our time away last week while spending time in Nebraska and her trip to the state basketball tournament to play in the pep band. As “responsible” parents we had asked that she get her work ahead of time to prevent the situation we are in now, but the teacher wasn’t sure what the class would be doing at the time (That response always amazes me!). Now our daughter is backtracking to get caught up, but was not offered any instruction and was informed to figure it out on her own (Another response that always amazes me!).

Nevertheless, the math problems she was working on had to do with factoring polynomials (Ever notice how you have enough problems as it is and then when you go to math you get more problems, often ODD problems 😉 !?!). My wife went over the “lesson” with my daughter, but talk of FOIL (I never heard mention of plastic wrap 😉 .) wasn’t sinking in. Being the instructional technology specialist that I am, I immediately pulled up (Annenberg Media that I mentioned several days ago in another post.), and found a video that explains factoring polynomials. The instructor, Sol, explained and showed how to factor polynomials, and we were all on our way to learning success!

If my daughter’s teacher had taken the time to teach her the lesson I believe the whole situation would have been less stressful; however, since there seems to not have been time to do this, where was the alternative or differentiated instruction? I know that had her math teacher been aware of he could have done exactly what we did at home with the video from Annenberg Media.

Please take the time today, especially if you never have before, to explore the technology tools that can enable, enrich, and remediate the learning process in our homes, classrooms, and schools. We cannot afford to let students “figure it out on your own” any longer. Problem solving is an important skill, but if we do not offer tools and strategies to help solve those problems we offer a huge disservice to our youth. As a parent this is the least I should have to expect from a teacher: finding and offering tools to facilitate learning.

  1. Anne Bubnic says:

    Hi Neil

    Annenberg Media has wonderful resources. I am glad you found them. I would agree with you that a common problem in math is that if a child doesn’t get the concept, there frequently are no alternative methods of instruction offered. Saying it louder and slower doesn’t work.

    A godsend for parents and students alike has been the subcription service, HOTMATH.COM. It walks students through all the odd-numbered math problems in any state adopted math book … and it’s just enough to get them over the hurdles that you described. Parents love HotMath too because often, they can’t remember enough about the math concept to help their child. Recently, Hot Math has added a video feature to their site. So now, instructors explain the problems.

    For Math Teachers and students in GR 6-8, check out the CTAP Middle School Math Project at We have many resources like Annenberg Media listed here.

    We’ve aligned all of the CA State Standards and the state-adopted math texts for GR 6,7 and 8 math with web resources that are listed by chapters in the book so that teachers find them exactly when they need them. The resources are all free and offer alternative methods of teaching and learning through videos, online tutorials, manipulatives and games. Some resources target teachers and demonstrate best practices. There’s also a meaty differentiated instruction module on the site that provides resources in 8 areas. (See

    We’ve presented this content at math and educational technology conferences up and down the State of California and at NECC. Teachers usually stand up and cheer. There’s a lifetime of work in there, all easily accessible. Some content is also suitable for struggling high school students, since 40% of the high school exit exam is based on 7th grade math. Now wouldn’t it be nice if teachers just learned to use some of these materials and posted them up on their web sites as homework helpers, along with homework assignments!

  2. Thanks for the additional resources Anne. You and your colleagues are doing some great work. I appreciate your willingness to share as we all can benefit from these tools.

  3. Dave says:

    As a teacher myself, I think it’s okay that the teacher wasn’t sure exactly what the class will be doing several days in the future. In fact, I think that any teacher that has every day strictly regimented to the minute is shooting his or herself in the foot. There are so many variables that can completely change your plan.

    Of course, saying “figure it out yourself,” is never acceptable. I frequently refer my students to web resources (that is, if they’re unable to stay after school to get extra instruction from me).

    For the most part, good post!

  4. Kiara says:

    I agree with Dave! Would you prefer that we just plow ahead each day without your child or the class in general having understood the lesson? If my kids need an extra day or two in order to grasp a concept that is critical for their success in the class, then it is going to change what we are going to be teaching that particular day or week.

    • nhokanson says:

      I am a teacher myself; so, I understand your concern as far as knowing what you will be doing from one day to the next in class. However, I always know what I will be doing as far as curriculum goes. Yes, we may be a day or two off, but I can always let a student know what they can do if they will be absent, and I always provide opportunities before and after school for students to come in and go over a lesson or content they may have missed while absent. This child of mine is now a junior in college and doing quite well. It was many years ago when I wrote this post, but I am glad it drew a response from you and that you shared your thoughts and insight on the subject. Best wishes…

  5. Kiara says:

    and p.s. How exactly is it fair that you chose to remove your daughter from school for an extra curricular event, yet it is the teacher’s job to put in extra time to reteach what was already instructed during class? If one of your coworkers went on vacation, would you voluntarily stay after work to help them complete the work they missed? Try being appreciative instead of entitled, you may get more assistance. I give up my lunch daily to be there for my kids if they need extra help, yet I still get parents like you that complain that I am not available because their child was too busy socializing to come in during lunch for help. It’s extremely frustrating!

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