How to find the area of a circle - and other things being Googled by frazzled parents right now


If you've found yourself in a cold sweat recently, trying to remember how to do fractions/algebra/circle the adjective in a sentence, then you're not alone.

With the pandemic forcing school closures around the world, parents who might have once said, "But Miss, when am I ever going to need calculus?" are turning to Google in droves for a re-introduction to cos, sin, tan, the rules of grammar -  and a crash course in whatever subjects their kids are studying. 

According to Google, maths homework in particular is stumping Aussie parents. And if you're one of then, the top five "how to questions" in Australia might look familiar.

Here's what we've been searching:

  • How to find the area of a circle
  • How to simplify fractions
  • How to divide fractions
  • How to multiply fractions
  • How to find the circumference of a circle

How to find the median, calculate a percentage and draw a rectangular prism are other questions parents have Googled over the past few weeks and months. 

Google also reveals that our general knowledge across a number of areas is somewhat rusty:

Our top five searches of late have included:

  • What is an ecosystem?
  • What is a polygon?
  • What is a composite number?
  • What is emotive language?
  • What is personification?

Parents have also asked Google about homophones, erosion, stanzas, square numbers and my personal favourite: "What is an adverb for kids?"

So why are we all struggling so much with our kids' homework? Have we really forgotten everything or has school just changed?

According to Professor Gary Falloon, Director of International Engagement and Professor of STEM Education and Digital Learning in the Macquarie School of Education, you're not imagining it - today's learning is very different. 

"The multiplication chants, grammar rhymes and rote learning many parents grew up with are no longer the primary emphasis of the school curriculum, and while that is a concern for many, the changes parents may notice represent important developments in preparing children for their futures," he explained in an article for The Lighthouse

"It's tricky because we've all been to school so we're all experts and we always measure how we think things should be against how we experienced it," Professor Falloon says."But the world is a much more complicated place now with so many challenges that traditional thinking can't easily help us resolve."

But while it might be frustrating for us as we battle with a new way of learning, research has shown that it's the best thing for our kids.

"The curriculum has come a long way from the rote 'drill and kill' kind of process it used to be, because research (such as that from the OECD's Knowledge for 2030 report) suggests that these approaches simply don't equip kids with the type of thinking skills they will need to adapt to the rapidly changing environments and situations they will encounter in their future lives," he said.

And the challenge might just be good for us - as long as we remember it. 

"Parents are understanding now the reality of what teachers face every day," Professor Falloon said.


Help with homework aside, I reckon Nobel prize winner and leading Australian immunologist Professor Peter Doherty isn't the only one Googling Dan Murphy's opening hours at the moment.