Home Lifestyle Alexa, can you help me with my child’s homework?

Alexa, can you help me with my child’s homework?

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Parents are turning to the popular virtual assistant (Picture: Getty Images)

What did you do when you couldn’t solve a tricky maths equation?

Did you search for the answer on Google, skip doing the homework altogether and tell your teacher dog ate it, or watch as your parents asked Alexa for the answer?

As bizarre as it may sound, the latter scenario is happening at an alarming rate, as parents and grandparents struggle to help kids complete their homework – particularly mathematics. 

There comes a time when homework becomes a little too advanced for parents to help with, especially as many forget how to do tricky long divisions, algebra or the names of all the triangles once they finish school. With over 500 million Alexa-enabled devices sold worldwide, people are using technology to their advantage when it comes to maths.

New data commissioned by the Department for Education’s Skills for Life campaign and Kindred found that 54% of parents would say they ‘would struggle to know where to start’ if left to their own decisions when helping children with their maths homework.

The Skills for Life campaign is encouraging adults of all ages to up their skills and learn something new, and to boost their confidence when helping their children at home and potentially improve their own career prospects. 

Of the 2,250 adults surveyed, 69% said they use the internet to help solve schoolwork problems and 20% reported using virtual assistants, like Alexa and Google Assistant, to help tutor their kids at home. Maths was revealed to cause the most angst and was voted the least favourite homework subject among parents and grandparents.

What do you do when you no longer understand your child’s homework? (Picture: Getty Images)

The data comes as education groups raise concerns about the growing use of AI in students’ work. Asking a virtual assistant for help on a task you plan to finish yourself is quite different to asking ChatGPT to come up with the answers for you, it raises questions about how much we rely on technology. 

A 16-year-old student identified only as Fiore previously told Metro.co.uk that he turned to ChatGPT when he realised an English essay was due the next day. It’s 2024 after all, and his story serves as a stark reminder that the days of cramming the assignment into an all-nighter or turning to SparkNotes for help are long gone.

Although many people would fear plagiarism detectors or eagle-eyed lecturers spotting AI-generated essays, the student wasn’t afraid about being caught. 

However, not all students are using AI to cheat and not all are using ChatGPT, with some turning to Gemini, which was developed by Google. Chatbots have also been found to be helpful for students with dyslexia when it comes to comprehending in-depth academic texts. 

Jane Basnett, director of digital learning at Downe House School in Berkshire admits that homework can be tricky for parents. ‘In the old days, parents turned to the Encyclopaedia Britannica to find responses, visited the library with their child or they asked a more informed friend,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘They had conversations and made discoveries about different topics that perhaps they had not known about before.’ 

This practice, however, has changed drastically now that technology is just one tap, swipe or voice command away. ‘Finding the knowledge is one thing, understanding it and engaging with it properly is another.

‘Parents need to encourage their child to understand the GenAI output and to put their own responses together.

‘These are just the sort of conversations that teachers are having with their students in classrooms across the country. Gen AI (generative artificial intelligence) is a tool that can very quickly do your homework for you but in doing so, it takes away the key important elements of education: learning, discovering and critical thinking.’

One dad, Paul Duggan, 68, from London made a huge life change after realising he couldn’t help his daughter with her homework. He completed a Skills for Life Numeracy course in 2020, when his daughter Rebecca was 10, after she inspired him to sign up.

He has since gone on to achieve a Functional Skills qualification in maths, which is equivalent to a Maths GCSE. 

‘I always had a difficult relationship with maths,’ he said. ‘I think a lot of people do. When my daughter, Rebecca, started needing more help with her homework I realised that if I didn’t tackle my fear of numbers now, not only would I be unable to help, but I’d also risk passing on my negative relationship with maths, which I certainly didn’t want to do.’

Not all parents will be able to find the time to brush up on their maths skills, as they often have to balance full-time jobs, the needs of other children, the cost of living and general life stuff. But for those like Paul who could, it has proven to be invaluable.

‘Signing up to the Skills for Life course was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s helped boost my confidence with everyday sums, and I’ve also grown a lot closer to my daughter, Rebecca, in the process, helping her solve equations and more complex problems as she studies for her maths GSCE.’

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