By GreatSchools Staff
Last fall results from national math exams stirred up a tempest in a standardized-test teapot. Opinions rained down in all directions. 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 fifth 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.
Picking up where fourth grade math left off, the math your fifth grader learns will emphasize real-world problem solving. Not sure what that means? Try: figuring out how much paint would be needed to cover a classroom or the sale price of a video game that’s been marked down 60 percent. Or something even closer to home, like tracking his or her grade point average.
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.
"I want students to discover mathematical concepts and relationships and to picture those concepts as they learn to recognize the connections between math and the world," says Kathy Rank, Ohio's 2005 Teacher of the Year.
Fifth graders build on the number sense they learned in previous years by working with numbers that range from very large (in the billions) to very small (in the thousandths) in the form of whole numbers as well as decimals and fractions. Number sense is the ability to understand numbers and work with them in a variety of ways, from doing mental computations to estimating to judging whether an answer seems reasonable.
Students also work with place value, learning, for example, that in the number 7,980.76, the 9 has a value of nine hundreds and the 6 has a value of six one-hundredths. They may be asked to compare similar numbers (such as 56,008 and 56,080) on a number line or with the symbols for greater than (>), less than (<), and equal to (=). They convert decimals and fractions as they learn to order and compare different types of numbers.
Fifth graders get a lesson in negative numbers by placing them on a number line or by applying them to real-world situations, such as an account that’s “in the red” or below-zero temperatures.
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