My Daughter’s Math Homework Has Been Our Pandemic Lifeline

It turns out schoolwork is the pandemic parenting hack you never expected

Jessica Valenti
Published in
3 min readJan 27, 2021
Photo: Kira Hofmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like being a pandemic parent in the winter. Gone are the outdoor playdates and park time; being stuck in the apartment these past few cold months has taken on a whole new level of isolation. Yet one thing has made the dreary pandemic winter more bearable: doing math homework with my 10-year-old daughter.

Hear me out.

When it comes to parenting during Covid-19, there’s no shortage of woes to choose from. Whether it’s going without childcare, trying to navigate remote learning, or experiencing the sadness of watching your kids struggle with loneliness, the virus has made the already difficult task of caring for another human exponentially more difficult.

For me, though, the hardest thing about trying to help my daughter through this past year has been the uncertainty — for the first time ever, we can’t give Layla a straight answer. We can’t tell her how long this will go on for; we don’t know when she’ll be able to have an indoor playdate again or when she’ll be able to go to school without a mask in a classroom that isn’t a dance studio with all the windows open. It’s a big change for young kids who are used to looking at their parents as the people with all the answers.

Even worse, now our daughter doesn’t entirely trust us when we do try to assuage her fears or give her hope about the future. When I tell Layla that things will start to get easier now that the vaccine is here and being distributed, for example, she points out that when she first left school last March, we told her it was just going to be for a few weeks. And she’s right! Why should she trust that we know what’s going to happen next when everything over the past year has shown that we don’t?

You know what does have straight answers, though? Math. There are rules and boundaries, expected outcomes and few surprises. I was a bit of a math dork as a kid: I was on a champion math team in junior high and went on to attend a specialized math and science high school. And so it’s been exciting to see Layla take the same pleasure and respite in numbers that I did.



Jessica Valenti
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.