By Lyra Pore
“Mom, if 5 ¾ is ½ of a certain number, what would that number be?” That’s my daughter asking me from the back of the car. I’m driving with my three kids, aged ten, six and one– and watching other cars while trying to change lanes just isn’t the best time to work out fractions.
There’s hardly a “best time” though to help my children with homework. I’m a full-time editor in the Australian office of a multinational publishing company. I get home from my office in Sydney’s North Shore just in time for dinner and for a quick chat with the family before I put my youngest daughter to bed. That’s why we talk about school every chance we get: in the car, in the parking lot, in the playground, anywhere.
“Off the top of my head, I can tell you it’s 11 ½,” I reply to the fractions question, having just steered the car to the right when another driver gives way. “But there’s a correct way to do it. It’s important that you know the process, so you can work it out regardless of what fraction is thrown at you. We’ll talk about it later.”
It’s easy enough to calculate halves and quarters without pen and paper, but I admit I don’t always have a ready answer to all my daughter’s questions. Thankfully there are lots of resources on the Internet to help parents like me cope with challenging Math questions.
“There’s something I want to show you,” I tell her that night, turning on the laptop in her bedroom. I type the URL http://www.mathsisfun.com in the browser, which brings us to a Web site that explains Math in a language that elementary and high school students can understand easily. It provides simple, easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on a variety of problems from numbers to algebra, data, and geometry to measurement. There are games and worksheets too. I click on the Fractions Menu and there we find a quick guide to working with proper, improper and mixed fractions and how to simplify, compare, add, subtract, multiply, divide and convert them to decimals or percentages.
“I’ll put this in your ‘Favorites.’ When you have a Math problem, we will look it up here.” Today when I can’t give a quick response to her questions, we save the discussion for when we get home–and out of the car.