My daughter, 9yo, is starting to be exposed to fractions at school. I've tried to help her out with basic fraction arithmetic but don't seem to be getting too far. I've spoken to her teacher who has basically told me not to get involved, her teacher is like that. My daughter is otherwise very smart so am I pushing for too much at her age for her to be able to work out things like 2/3 x 3/7?

Followup: I continued teaching my daughter fractions and decimals which had two consequences: she is now in the top maths group which is taught by a different teacher, but now she is "the dumb kid" in a group a smart kids. We shall persevere....

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    Sounds like your daughter has a bad teacher. Jun 2, 2011 at 12:12
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    @JSBangs, then again, it's good to remember we are in fact only getting one side of the story here, not the full picture. It could be the case poster is indeed pushing her daughter too much, and that is the reason for the teacher's behaviour. But it's of course rather impossible to tell with this little information. Jun 7, 2011 at 6:37
  • @Ilari - My daughter has been classified as "gifted" by some of her previous teachers and has attended special classes for advanced students where she has held her own. That being said, her strengths are on the language side of things. I do not know how much that applies to the maths side - her skills are above average but nowhere near as good as her reading/spelling. Having just spent an hour with her doing maths homework, I think we need to take a step back and work more on the fundamentals.
    – dave
    Jun 7, 2011 at 19:21
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    @euroman - manipulating fractions is pretty much mandatory in algebra. Plus there are many real-world cases where fractions are just easier (unless you have a calculator on hand).
    – dave
    Jan 6, 2013 at 19:50
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    In response to your follow-up: in this case it's better the be the 'dumb' kid in a smart group than the other way around. Better to be pulled upwards than downwards.
    – Mast
    Nov 16, 2015 at 12:54

8 Answers 8


I don't think you're pushing for it too much at all. If the teacher has said "don't get involved" I would try taking that up with someone higher. I for one welcome parents who get involved in their kids academic lives. My nephew is 9 and he's doing fractions, he even came to me about six or seven weeks before his teacher first broached the topic in class, and I had him doing basic fractions before the class ever learned about /2.

Of course, getting her to understand two thirds of three sevenths might be a tad complicated, but then again, I only say that because I know so many adults who don't understand that.

  • The teacher gives "feeler" tests to see who knows what. It seems she sees her job as lifting those below average up and has little interest with those on the top end of the bell curve. Thanks for your experience, I shall persevere.
    – dave
    Jun 2, 2011 at 3:26
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    @Dave I hope you have a lot of luck with talking to those above her in the education system. If push comes to shove, homeschool her on the weekend for an hour or so and encourage the interest.
    – jcolebrand
    Jun 2, 2011 at 3:28

I am of the opinion that if your child wants to learn you should give them all the support they need - most schools aren't set up to provide individually tailored tuition but to teach the group at a level somewhere in the middle between the slowest and the fastest learners.

The school my kids go to also seems to have a policy of 'don't get involved' however I started teaching my eldest fractions at 6 years old because he was ready. At 10 he is now understanding basic calculus - the school isn't set up to teach that so he would be missing out if I left it up to the teachers.

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    The whole concept of "don't get involved" seems outright evil to me. As a former teacher I know the limitations of the school system. Even if one tries their best (which is not always the case), there is lack of time and resources, students disrupting others or taking disproportionate amount of attention, etc. so always something remains unexplained or explained insufficiently. From people I know, usually teachers pay a lot of attention to teach their own kids at home; I guess because they know what the school cannot give them. School should be a service, not a monopoly on education. Jan 9, 2013 at 13:43

As a fourth grade teacher let me hopefully shed some light on what seems to be two different issues here: How the teacher of your child advised you, and Whether or not advancing your child's fraction knowledge is relevant or necessary.

Addressing the first question, if this teacher did, in fact, say "don't get involved" without further explanation, then this teacher needs to learn a bit of tack. Let me try and rephrase what may have been meant; often times I suggest parents take a back seat to homework because of two things: if the assignment comes back complete and correct, but the parent had to walk their child through the entire process, then I don't get an accurate reading of the child's understanding of the topic. If I don't have an accurate reading then I can't know to give them extra attention, because I assume they understand it. Assistance on homework is always great, but I prefer parents to ask their child questions about how they learned it in school and to try and explain the process as much as possible before the parent jumps in. If the child explains something incorrectly you know exactly where you can straighten them out without having to entirely reteach the method.

The second reason we say, "don't worry about the homework" is because we respect your home life and don't want you to have the added stress of battling over a dumb work sheet at night, when everyone is tired. We are trying to be on your side.

The second issue is simple: If your child wants to learn the subject, they will. If they have the desire they can ask you questions and initiate their own inquiries without being prompted. This is how leadership is built. If you think they need a push, perhaps talk to the teacher and get his/her advice before raising your expectations. Failure is part of learning, but pushing them too much and setting them up to fail can be just as damaging as not pushing them enough. Multiplying fractions with different denominators isn't taught in our school until 5th grade, unless the child is clearly an accelerated math thinker.

I hope this helps

  • Hi, and welcome to Parenting.SE! Thanks for the detailed explanation and the in depth experience-based answer, these kind of answers are what makes our site better. Hope to see you around!
    – Joe
    May 25, 2016 at 16:40

You say that your daughter is very smart. I assume it means that in previous math topics she didn't have any problem. I would give the teacher some credit. When I hear "don't get involved", I see it as the teacher saying "let the child advance in his own pace". Furthermore, probably the teacher is teaching them in a certain method, and it might take them some time to reach the 2/3 x 3/7. This is definitely not one of the first things children learn in fractions. Sometimes they need longer exposure to an idea before it clicks and they just get it.
Of course, if your daughter is frustrated with being unable to do it, you could ask her teacher in what way you can help her in dealing with this.
I personally feel that we tend to outguess teachers too much, and give them little credit that they know what they're doing. If the same teacher was able to teach them other topics, I would give her some time. Still, you being involved is a good thing, and you should monitor the progress.

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    The teacher's comments were along the lines of "she does not need to know that yet. She is already above average - don't worry about it." I have had a close relationship with the past 4 teachers. Each one has recognised my child's abilities (especially in language) and deficits (overly emotional). This one - not so much. I would be happy to let my daughter advance at her own pace but I get the feeling that she wont advance anywhere until the rest of the class catches up. That being said, I will keep an open mind with the teacher. Thanks.
    – dave
    Jun 2, 2011 at 11:03
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    There's a reason we tend to try and outguess teachers. There are a lot of bad teachers out there (but also a lot of good ones!). I don't think its unreasonable for a parent to want to be involved in a child's education (on the contrary, I think its unreasonable not to want to be involved!). If the teacher really is concerned about the parent pushing too hard, or is following a specific method that has a set pace, it is up to the teacher to explain that to the parent, and not simply say "don't get involved, I know what I'm doing!".
    – user420
    Jun 2, 2011 at 12:24

First, you have to push to get the best education for your child. Great teachers with the best intentions don't always know what's best.

Secondly, you may simply try different approaches to teaching fractions. I don't know exactly how you're going over them with your daughter, but if she's advanced or gifted in everything else then this shouldn't be difficult. Are you getting frustrated and maybe that's making your daughter frustrated? Have you tried a different math book or workbook?


The main issue here, for me, is that our kids are taught differently to us. I used methodologies used in my education, and the teachers will use different ones, which can lead to confusion in the children. So, in this instance, I think the line don't get involved, whilst harsh, and rude, is fairly on the money. One thing I really do not like, is that teaching is often done by rote i.e. they are teaching not by learning methods, but by repeating rhymes (for wont of a better word).

I home school my kids in Maths, as I don't trust the modern methods over here, and as maths was a strong subject for me, I trust what I know.


I think 9 is leaving it late. Our daughter is 6 she knows what an apple is and what half an apple is and what a quarter is through a few games she extrapolated that if a quarter of 4 is 1 then a quater of 8 must be 2 and she then answered that a quarter of 6 = 1 and two quarters. Then she wanted to wrestle with her brother so we stopped, but kids get it early if it's relevant.

Our kids school has a high proportion of special needs children so the kids at the other end don't get priority so it seems to me that parent intervention is important to keep those kids doing it easy challenged.

  • Understanding adding and subtracting concrete examples of halves and quarters is a very different skill from multiplying fractions. This questioner is asking about a much more abstract skill in terms of how these things are often taught. Nov 4, 2012 at 3:11

If your child's teacher has told you as a parent, in so many words, to "not get involved", I would get involved - with that teacher's department head, the assistant principal, principal and/or superintendent. OF COURSE parents are supposed to get involved in their child's education.

To the real question, 9 years old is about 4th grade (give or take a grade depending on where the cutoff is on birthday for each grade. According to http://www.time4learning.com/fourth-grade-math.shtml, 4th grade is pretty much on track for teaching kids fractions. 3rd grade is mostly about mastery of basic arithmetic, and starting to chain multiple operations together (i.e. what is 5x3+2).

If she's having problems, I would see if there's another way to explain it. Try using fruit; slice an apple into 4 (or 6 or 8) pieces, then give the child one piece. Explain that that the piece they have is one of the eight pieces that make up the whole apple, and so it's one-eighth or 1/8. Then give them another piece. They now have two pieces out of eight, or 2/8. I'm not sure if they need to know about least-terms yet, but if they do, put pairs of the pieces together and show that their two pieces, plus pairs of the other six, can form four portions of the whole, of which they have one, so their two eighths is also equal to one-fourth of the apple. A lot of times, kids don't get numbers because they don't see what the numbers represent. If you put it in terms of something real, that they can move around and see the numbers in action, it can make a world of difference in their understanding.

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