“Mom, I don’t understand this.” When your child is in elementary school, you welcome these requests for help. But when your child enters upper grades and is dealing with algebra homework, you may find yourself a little anxious. If you need to provide some help with algebra homework, here are some tips that might make it a little easier.

**1. Learn to Read the Whole Problem**

This is particularly true for word problems, but when tackling a difficult algebra problem, you need to read the entire thing. This will prevent mistakes that occur when you didn’t see the whole picture. Make sure you mark any variables in the problem and label them appropriately.

**2. Change the Signs**

Negatives look confusing, but if you can remember one little trick in algebra, you can make most of your negative numbers disappear. In algebra, you can do anything you want to the equation, as long as you do the same action to both sides of the equals sign. So, if you are presented with an equation that’s filled with negatives, multiply everything by -1. This effectively changes the sign, and your child may find the problem less difficult.

**3. Draw a Picture**

Some children need a visual aid, so don’t be afraid to draw a picture. Make “x” into a shape, and then show what the problem is saying using the shapes, not just the elusive “x.” sometimes that visual image is exactly what your child needs to be successful.

**4. Learn to Cross Multiply**

Nothing can send a kid packing quite as quickly as an algebra problem involving fractions. One trick that can make these easier is the trick of cross multiplying. If both sides of the equation are a fraction, you can eliminate the fraction by multiplying the denominator on the left with the numerator on the right, and then the denominator on the right with the numerator on the left. The resulting products are the two sides of your equals sign, and now you have a much simpler problem that your child probably knows how to solve.

Remember, when it comes to helping your children with tricky math problems, like algebra, it pays to think “outside of the box.” If you need further help, contact the team at Swan Learning Center for expert guidance.

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