By GreatSchools Staff
Last fall results from national math exams stirred up a tempest in a standardized test. It turns out math scores rose more quickly before No Child Left Behind was implemented, and fourth grade math scores haven’t improved since 2007. As reported in the New York Times, the achievement gap remains a chasm between the haves and the have-nots.
What does this mean for your child? While pundits and politicians battle over the big issues, it's up to parents to stay on top of the little ones: their own kids' academic development. Keep tabs on what your fourth grader should learn in math this year with our grade-based milestones. Of course, math curricula still vary widely from state to state as school districts grapple with how to implement the Common Core Standards, so these are merely guidelines. For a better sense of how your child's schoolwork compares, look up your state's math standards, see what the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends for preschool through high school, or read through the Common Core Standards for math.
The math your fourth grader is learning might be a little different from what you learned in school: Now there's more emphasis on real-world applications. "The purpose of math in the fourth grade is to help students make the connection between classroom concepts and real-world problem-solving," says Wendy Miller, the 2006 North Carolina Teacher of the Year.
What's real-world problem solving? Try: mapping a daily bus route or figuring out how much paper you'd need to plaster a café bulletin board with ads for yoga courses. Long story short, your kid may learn more than one way to solve a problem, focusing on the process — not just the solution. Typically students at this age work to develop an understanding of mathematics and engage in activities that require complex thought instead of just memorizing rules. Children may also work in groups to find solutions to tough math problems.
According to Kathy Rank, Ohio's 2005 Teacher of the Year, "Having students work in groups is an extremely effective technique for getting them actively involved in doing math. It is important that students share solutions and explain their thinking and that they know their ideas will be valued."
Fourth graders should be able to read and write whole numbers and understand place value into the millions.
Students will also gain a deeper understanding of numbers in general, learning how they relate to each other as well as new ways to represent them. Continuing the work they started in previous years, fourth graders should hone their number skills, from mental computations to estimation to judging whether an answer seems reasonable.
In the classroom, fourth graders may rely on visual models and objects like base 10 blocks to develop their understanding of numbers. Kids may be asked to arrange whole numbers, decimals, and fractions on a number line. They may also learn to compare numbers using the symbols for greater than (>), less than (<), and equals (=).
Because your child will be working with larger numbers, it's important for them to be able to recall math facts quickly. They should know times tables up to 10. By the end of the year, they'll typically be multiplying three-digit numbers by two-digit numbers (like 42 x 638) and dividing four-digit numbers by one-digit numbers and 10 (like 7,445 ÷ 4) with and without remainders. They'll also be adding and subtracting five-digit numbers.
Fourth-graders should understand the meaning of operations and be able to explain the relationships between addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Some teachers use word problems that involve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using whole numbers, fractions, and decimals.
For example: Four children ate two pizzas, each with eight slices. If each child ate the same number of slices, how many slices did each child one have? The answer: (2 x 8) ÷ 4 = 4 slices each.
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