Getting Started on Exemplars at Home

Are your students working remotely on Exemplars math tasks? 

This video tutorial is designed specifically for kids to help them get started with our problem-solving process from home. 

We encourage teachers to share it with them and their families.




Helping your children with mathematics can be challenging. As a parent myself, I know
firsthand how hard it can be to help your children learn something as complex as math.

Here are a couple of strategies that will help you create a positive working relationship
and hopefully an attentive audience for working at home with your children.

1) Set up a plan one day in advance. What will tomorrow look like? How will it
unfold? Set a time for academics, for exercise, for technology, snacks, etc. Set
realistic goals--don’t over-schedule. Be sure your child has a say in setting up the
day’s plan. The more voice your child feels they have, the more likely they will be
to listen to yours.

2) Schedule the time for school work. Help your child set up a place that is theirs,
where they are comfortable working. Turn off the technology. According to Jaliyla
Fraser from Fraser's Mathematics Solutions, "The earlier the better. Research show
that focus and energy levels hit a peak around 10 am. Working on math as early
as possible can help maximize your child's perseverance and concentration." 

Set a timer for your “school” period. How long is it realistic to learn?
The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. When children get tired,
cranky and sassy, take a break, then agree on when you will get back to work.
Change up what tasks children are working on regularly. The brain gets tired!
We all need to change from concentration to play to exercise to games--and
then back to concentrated learning. Keep your students moving and keep
them engaged. Scheduled free time is okay too!

3) Be prepared to start an Exemplars math task. You will need 5 things before
you get started:

4) Getting started. Exemplars has created a routine for helping students read,
understand and solve our math tasks. This routine is pulled together in the
Exemplars Problem Solving Process.

5) Understand the problem. Exemplars encourages students to use a reading
strategy for our problems called the three reads. To summarize, encourage your
child to read the task three times. It can be very helpful to actually read it to them.

  • First read: What is the problem about?
  • Second read: What are the quantities, the numbers in the task?
  • Third read: What specific questions do we need to answer for this task?
  • We ask students to write an “I have to” or “I need to” sentence at the top of their paper. If your child is really young, let them tell you what problem needs to be solved and write it for them.

6) Think of a plan. What strategies might your child use to solve the problem? Just
stop and think. Do they want to use pictures or a diagram of what is happening in
the story to get started? Get out things the student can touch and play with.
There are a lot of strategies and representations for them to choose from. We
now ask students to write an “I will ...” or “My strategy is ...” sentence. This tells
the reader how the student wants to solve the problem.

7) Solve the problem. Your child should now use the strategy they have chosen to
solve the problem. They should take their time. We do not expect students to use
the most efficient method to find the answer. Let them use their own strategy to
work towards a solution. Watch and learn, ask questions. And try really hard not
to tell them the answer! Powerful learning happens not when the child hears the
correct answer, but when they actually have time to figure out the answer, for
themselves. We strongly encourage students to work with hands-on objects as
much as possible in the beginning–and to “play” with finding their solution. Give
them time to experiment, invent, discover. As adults, we know the most efficient
ways. Our students will get there too. But if we push too hard too fast, learners
never truly understand why our “adult” strategies work. So give them time to do it
their own way. They will get there. Ask lots of questions. Draw out what they
know. Act it out. And be patient.

8) Show their work. Having worked to solve the problem, the last thing we ask
students to do is to show their thinking. It is one thing to get the right answer, but
it is also important for readers to be able to understand the child’s mathematical
thinking and for students to be confident they have actually developed the correct
answer. We will discuss this further in our upcoming video “What does a good
answer look like?”

9) Have fun! Let students take their time. Allow your child to discover some of this
math understanding. When we work to get to the answer too fast, our children
never enjoy the fun of discovery. In the end, math can actually be really fun!