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Your fifth grader and math

Fifth grade math kicks off with a limited look at the wide world of algebra.

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.

In the classroom

What math concepts will your fifth grader learn?

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.

Knowing numbers and operations

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.

Comments from readers

"My daughter attends Maxdale Elementary School,she is in the 5th grade, embarking on the next stage, the second 8th week of Math. During the summer, I provided my daughter with practice exercises, the exercises that assist with the preparation for the toss/taks test. Being a parent and placing the primary focus on reading and word association, associating with mathemathical symbols, in which identify's how to solve a problem. Teaches the child how to used quantative reasoning, problem solving techniques, understanding of formal and informal mathemathical language, assisting with ones ability to solve a problems. I am displaced and my daughter is with her grandparents, at times I do worry, because they have there own techniques, sometimes going against mine, in which cause confusion. With the above in mind I do know that my child is prepared, however at times she may become confused, as a result of poor memory recall (ADD). So the key is to keep her armed with language, in! formal and formal mathematical language she can apply, comprehend and understand. Inconclusion, we must pay attention to our children, their intellectual needs, as well as deficietcy, creating an individual educational plan to assist them as they complete their journey through elementary, middle and high school. Thanks, AFCMSVO/NAPSP KILLEEN, TX "
"It's really sad, as a volunteer, to see that some 5th and 6th grade students don't know their basic multiplication facts. Yet, they are being pushed through the program which sets them up for failure. We as parents, grandparents, and volunteers need to step up to the plate and help these struggling students!"
"My daughter scored a 2 on her 5th grade EOG math test and must now retake it. Is there anything that the school can send home to help her prepare for this test? Her Teacher has not sent home any type of study guide for these tests. "
"Thank you so much for this information. I find it highly appropriate and useful. "
"thank you very much for this imformation it will help me alot in math"
"please add me to your email list and send me information on my 5th grader. Good study tips for math, spelling reading comprehension"
"kids should not use caculators!they have to do thier on work"
"Regarding getting your child additional learning tools for multiplication, School House Rock is an excellent resource. I got a DVD copy from my library, but you can also order these on line. Also, 'Division Rap' is another great DVD that can support learning these in a fun way. Both these were at my library along with many other DVDs and videos about various math operations."
"Help!! I need sample worksheets for math that I can use to help out my 5th grader on the weekends. She hates math and still doesn't know how to solve her divisions. Multiplication is still an issue as well. This is frustrating especially if I was taught one way. Any other teaching suggestions to help out?"