We all know it’s important for kids to master division, fractions, and equations. But math is more than memorizing facts or even procedures. Math also teaches an essential skill: problem solving. Sixth graders are expected to be able to solve problems even when the path to solving the problem isn’t clear. Students should be comfortable asking and answering questions such as: What is this problem asking me to do? How do I know this is correct? Does this make sense? How else can I solve this?
Modeling and data analysis means taking a real-world problem and using math to solve it — by creating a graph, drawing a picture, using a number line, creating a table, or building a model. In sixth grade, students apply the concepts and procedures they’ve learned to solve real-world problems.
See how a sixth grader solves a word problem involving ratios.
Sixth graders are expected to figure out how to solve problems that don’t tell them which procedures or techniques to use. Students need to identify the important information in problems, figure out which steps to take, and choose what tools to use (for example, pictures, graph paper, or a ruler) to find the answer. Many problems, such as the sample problem below, can be solved using a variety of techniques. Your child should be able to read a problem and find the answer using a technique that works for him. He should also be able to make sense of other approaches and show multiple ways to solve a problem.
Sample problem 1: Analyzing a problem and looking for ways to efficiently solve it
Students learn to show and make sense of how quantities change in relationship to one another using graphs and tables. For example, in the sample problem below students are asked to find the rate of two bikers using the data presented.
Sample problem 2: Making sense of quantities and their relationships
Sample problem 3: Modeling, or using mathematics to solve real-world problems
The math gene is a myth! There’s a common misconception that some people are born with a math brain and some aren’t. Not true. With support, practice, and encouragement, kids can — and will — learn math.
Teachers want to work with you to help your child. Ask for specific information about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask for suggestions on math exercises you can do at home. Maybe there’s a card game or board game that helps with reasoning skills. Get some advice on how to talk to your child in a way that encourages her.