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Your fourth grader and math

Real numbers in the real world: Fourth grade math emphasizes applying what kids know and knowing what they apply.

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.

In the classroom

What math concepts will your fourth grader learn?

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."

Knowing numbers

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 (=).

Mastering math facts

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.

Understanding the meaning of operations

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.

Comments from readers

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"I have a child that moved from a lower and slower learner area and needs to get to the fourth grade level in both reading and multiplying factors, do you have practise printables?"
"I so agree with the last posting. while i understand that yes my son is only 5, but I don't understand why the teacher just can't accept the kid is reading 4th grade level and doing solid 3rd grade math. Instead helping him to expand his ability and close the reading gap between compreheansive and decodeing. They pretty much just tell me there is nothing they can do. I will just have to wait until other kids catch up. I finally get them to agree to have him do math with older kid, in 4 days he again is the first of the class. Yes, no child left behind is great concept. But how about my son who seriesly need some help,,"
"The 'new' math way is the most assinine thing I have ever encountered. I believe it actually confuses a child before they have actually been properly taught the fundamentals of learning. My sons do quite well. By looking at the method of teaching though, I am reminded of things my grandmother said ( she started teaching at 18..quit to raise a family..then got a degree and taught again until she was 71). At 85, she attended all the retired teacher's meetings, and the newer teachers were there. She reflected to me that the newer teachers were 'educated idiots' because they only went by the books but couldn't understand that the children needed to 'learn how to learn'. If you find a student exceptional..promote them ahead of their class... If you find them in need of help..HELP THEM.. Do not group them together as a whole because ALL can be quite different with quite different needs. I respect what you are trying to practice... but doctors 'practice' and destroy people everyday...."
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"Excellent information! It would be very helpful if you had links for 'every topic' that would take us to a worksheet that had several problems that cover the specific topic for our children to work on. Thanks."
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"In reviewing this information I have went over it with my child (4th grader), and beleive it to be a great help, not only his understanding but, mine also. Great Information. "
"math tests are really english language tests with embedded numbers. All children must be at least average readers or they will not be able to comprehend the question and answer it to the full extent. Facts are important but reading is the key!"
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