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GreatKids State Test Guide for Parents

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Parents' guide to SBAC testing

See what skills are tested, understand your child's scores, and get ideas for how you can help at home.


4th grade
ELA/Literacy Skills

Fourth graders should read smoothly and with expression. Instead of skipping unknown words, they should use context, root words, or a dictionary to figure them out. At this age, kids are expected to explain their thinking and make connections between what they read, hear, and write.

Reading Literature (Fiction)

What it means
How to help

To meet the Reading Literature standard, fourth graders are expected to:

  • Describe characters, settings, events, and the theme by pointing to evidence, or examples, from the text.
  • Explain the major differences between how plays and poems are organized and structured.
  • Compare the point of view (first person or third person narration) of a story.

Want to know more?

The Reading Literature standard refers to reading fiction, plays, and poetry. Through literature children learn about relationships, emotions, and human experiences. In fourth grade, kids should be reading increasingly challenging texts, such as The Black Stallion, and poems, such as Shel Silverstein’s Whatif.

As students discuss the poems, drama, or prose they read, they should be able to point to several examples in the text (also called evidence) to back up their summaries and conclusions. Kids learn to use details from the text to describe a story’s setting, events, or characters. For example, in Sarah, Plain and Tall, when the narrator looks at the long dirt road that crawled across the plains, remembering the morning that Mama had died, cruel and sunny, a student might point to the words cruel and sunny as evidence of the narrator’s pain about her mother’s death.

Watch how these fourth graders show their understanding of a text.


They are beginning to understand the point of view of a narrator (first person versus third person) and see how these perspectives are different.

Fourth graders should also be able to describe the differences in how poems, plays, and prose are organized. Poems, for example, group ideas into lines and stanzas while plays tell stories through dialogue and events.

If your child didn't meet the Reading Literature standard...

  • Your child may not know how to use details from the text to describe characters, settings, events, or the main idea of a story, play or poem.
  • Your child may struggle with knowing how to tackle complex texts.
  • Your child may come to the right conclusions but lack details to back up his reasoning.
  • Your child may not understand the idea of point of view and the difference between first and third person perspectives.
How to help

Read together and ask your child questions

Pick stories and plays your child is interested in, whether they’re about superheroes or historical figures. If a book is hard for your child to read, it’s perfectly fine to take turns reading aloud. Even if you only have time to read a short passage together every day, this will help develop the reading skills your child needs.

Questions to ask while reading with your child

Here are some questions to get your child thinking. (Remember to ask Why? and How do you know?)

  • Which character did you find most interesting? Describe what makes that character interesting to you.
  • What’s the main message of this book? How do you know that?
  • How is the main message of this book similar to another book you’ve read or a movie you’ve seen? What makes them similar? What makes them different?

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

Through fiction children learn about relationships, emotions, and human experiences. If your child struggles to make these connections, ask her teacher for ways you might help her link her own experiences with the stories she reads.

Reading Information (Nonfiction)

What it means
How to help

To meet the Reading Information standard, fourth graders are expected to:

  • Refer to evidence, or details from the text, when summarizing the main idea.
  • Compare different versions of the same event, and combine information from two texts on the same topic.
  • Describe how an author organizes events and ideas in a text.
  • Understand information in graphs, tables, or multimedia presentations.

Want to know more?

The Reading Information standard assesses kids’ ability to read all kinds of nonfiction, or informational texts. Kids are being asked to read more nonfiction nowadays because educators have seen that many kids are graduating from high school without the ability to read complex informational texts and it’s hurting them in college and their careers. In fourth grade, kids should be reading lots of nonfiction articles, books, tables, and maps. When students summarize the main idea from information presented, they should be able to give several examples from the text (also called evidence).

Kids also begin to make sense of information presented in maps, timelines, charts, and multimedia presentations about history or science topics. They explain how an author uses certain facts to support a particular idea.

When fourth graders read about history and science they should point to evidence from the text to explain what happened. For example, if asked how we know so much about Springer, a lone orca swimming in Puget Sound described in an article, students might point to how scientists were able to track her movements because they had first captured her in order to help treat a skin rash.

Students should also be able to find similarities and differences from two different sources on the same topic.

Watch how fourth graders are able to build knowledge by reading informational texts.


If your child didn’t meet the Reading Information standard…

  • Your child may not point to details from the text to support his ideas.
  • Your child may need help comparing two different texts about the same events.
  • Your child may struggle to recognize or describe how a text is organized.
  • Your child may have difficulty understanding information presented in tables, graphs, or multimedia presentations.
How to help

Read together and ask your child questions

Let your child pick nonfiction books or articles she’s interested in (biographies, animals, or ancient civilizations). If she struggles to read a text alone, take turns reading it aloud and then talk about it.

Questions to ask while reading with your child

  • What is this section mostly about? How do you know?
  • What evidence does the author give for that?
  • What could be another title for this article? How does your title help explain the main message of the article?
  • After reading two articles on the same topic, how are these two articles similar and different?

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

Reading requires a combination of many skills: decoding, fluency, reading with expression, and comprehension. Ask your child’s teacher which of these skills are strongest for your child, and which areas need support. Then ask for the best ways you can help.

Reading: Vocabulary

What it means
How to help

To meet the Reading Vocabulary standard, fourth graders are expected to:

  • Use context to make sense of new words.
  • Break an unfamiliar word into recognizable parts (prefixes, suffixes, and root words) to understand its meaning.
  • Recognize and explain the differences between words with similar meanings.

Want to know more?

As fourth graders read both fiction and nonfiction texts, they come across words known as academic vocabulary. These words are used often, in many subjects, but they can be hard to define. Examples include essential, result, or passage. They also encounter content-specific words, which are used when studying a specific subject. For example, metamorphosis is a word your child would most likely encounter in science class.

Students should use three key strategies to figure out the meanings of these words:

  1. Use the context (find clues in the rest of the sentence or paragraph).
  2. Use parts of the word to help find its meaning. Since extra means more than, extraordinary would mean more than ordinary.
  3. Use resources like a dictionary or thesaurus to find the definition.

Watch how a teacher guides a fourth grader through the process of figuring out new words.


At this age, kids are shifting from literal to abstract thinking. A literal thinker sees the Statue of Liberty as a lady holding a torch, but an abstract thinker recognizes that the statue represents freedom. This is important in fourth grade because as students read they encounter figurative language, such as idioms and expressions that are not literal. (Example: That’s a piece of cake!)

Note that figurative language can be especially challenging for students whose first language isn’t English because they must first learn and understand the literal meaning before interpreting the symbolism. (Imagine trying to understand He needs to get his ducks in a row if you were learning English!)

If your child didn’t meet the Reading Vocabulary standard…

  • Your child may not understand the context in which a word is used.
  • Your child may not be able to break a new word into parts to figure out the meaning.
  • Your child may get confused by common figures of speech or words with similar meanings used in the text.
  • Your child may not yet know the meaning of general or content-specific academic words.
How to help

Helping your child understand new words

New words can get in the way of your child’s understanding. If your child pauses or stumbles on a word, he may not know its meaning. When your child comes across a word he doesn’t know, try this:

  • Ask your child to read the rest of the sentence to see if understanding the context helps.
  • Ask your child to explain what’s happening in the story or article. Then see if he can guess what the new word might mean.
  • Ask your child to try replacing the new word with another word that means the same thing. If she doesn’t know, tell her and have her repeat the new word.
  • Ask your child if he recognizes part of the word (for example, recognizing compete in the word competition).

Build your child’s academic vocabulary

It’s important for fourth graders to build their academic vocabulary. General academic vocabulary includes precise words (for example, argued, exclaimed, or described instead of said). Check out this list for more academic vocabulary words to use with your fourth grader. Sign up for GreatWords, our free vocabulary-boosting text message program, to get daily text messages with 4th grade academic vocabulary words. To get started, text WORDS to 88769. (See terms and conditions.)

To increase your fourth grader’s academic vocabulary, introduce a new word every day. Tell your child the meaning of the new word, and have him think of another word or phrase that means close to the same thing. For instance, prefer means the same as would rather. Next, make up a sentence using the word. I prefer going for a walk instead of running today. For fun, help your child start a daily word journal. In a notebook or journal, have your child write the word and create his own sentence using the new word or draw a picture to illustrate the word.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

Kids also need to be steadily growing their knowledge about the world with every new article, story, and website they read. A strong vocabulary is a huge predictor of academic success because it helps children understand what they read and lets them express their ideas. Ask your child’s teacher what you can do at home to help expand his word knowledge.

Written Expression

What it means
How to help

To meet the Written Expression standard, fourth graders are expected to:

  • Organize their ideas when writing an essay.
  • Provide examples from what they’ve read to support opinions and arguments.
  • Create stories using dialogue, description, and sequence of events.

Want to know more?

Fourth graders should be able to write to tell a story (narrative writing), convey information on a topic (informational writing), or to convince someone of their opinion (persuasive writing).

When they reach fourth grade, kids need to organize supporting information clearly. In any type of writing, fourth graders are expected to stay focused on their main idea and write each paragraph to build on the previous one. Your fourth grader’s persuasive and informational writing should start with a strong introduction that grabs the reader’s attention and end with a clear conclusion. She should include details and facts to support the main points in her writing. Fourth graders are also expected to choose precise vocabulary and use linking words (in addition, for example, or however) to connect ideas.

Read a few real-life examples of fourth grade nonfiction writing.

See what teachers are looking for in your fourth grader’s writing.


Fourth graders should be able to decide which type of writing best fits their purpose and use the appropriate format. For example, if they want to share a personal experience, they should choose narrative writing and use description and dialogue to develop the events that occurred.

Students should now be using technology to research a topic before they write and produce their work. They can gather information by reading books, reference materials, and online articles, as well as from watching multimedia presentations. While they’re researching, fourth graders are expected to take notes to help them prepare to write. Finally, they should use computers to type up and later revise their work.

See how fourth graders do research and get organized to write.


After answering reading comprehension questions on the test, students are asked to respond in writing to prompts about the readings. Here, students have an opportunity to show their persuasive and informational writing skills. They are also asked to write a narrative piece to show their ability to include the important elements like characters, sequence of events, and setting.

If your child didn’t meet the Written Expression standard…

  • Your child may struggle to organize ideas into a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Your child may forget to provide examples from text to back up the ideas she presents in her writing.
  • Your child may not know how to use precise vocabulary.
  • Your child may need help learning how to use description, dialogue, and events to move the story along.
How to help

Make writing fun

When you help your child with writing, remember to celebrate his creativity and help him write his ideas clearly.

  • Keep a journal — Encourage your child to write in a journal about what happens each day.
  • Gimme a play by play — When your child comes home from a field trip, play date, or outing, ask him to write down what happened. If he’s suddenly not interested in sharing because he doesn’t want to write, let him tell you verbally. You take notes and brainstorm together how you would change the real-life experience to make it into a written story.
  • Verbal brainstorm — If your child’s struggling with what to write on an assignment, get him talking about what he knows. Getting clear about your ideas is an essential part of writing, but all too often kids choose to skip it.
  • Playwright — Kids often enjoy turning parts of stories into plays. Encourage it! And be an attentive audience when they are ready to perform.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

What’s missing in your child’s writing? Your child’s teacher can tell you, but it’s better to ask him to show you. Bring in a couple of your child’s writing samples and ask the teacher to point out what’s strong and where your child’s writing needs work. The teacher may have other samples to share with you, too. Using writing samples can help your child’s teacher explain things more clearly.

Writing: Knowledge and Use of Language Conventions

What it means
How to help

To meet the Language Conventions standard, fourth graders are expected to:

  • Correctly order the adjectives in a descriptive sentence: for example, not blue, small flower, but small, blue flower.
  • Know how to use relative pronouns like who, whose, whom, which, and that correctly.
  • Correctly use frequently confused words (for example, to, too, two; there, their).
  • Correctly punctuate dialogue and quotations.
  • Write in complete sentences, avoiding fragments and run-ons.

Want to know more?

Fourth graders are digging a little deeper into the rules of language, or grammar. For example, they learn to recognize and write using the correct order of adjectives in a sentence (the really big green antique car instead of the antique green really big car). They also learn which is the correct relative pronoun (who, whom, which, that) to use when trying to add more detail to their sentences (Mrs. Sutton, who owns the pie shop, is waiting outside).

At this age, kids should be good at catching their own capitalization, punctuation, and spelling mistakes and correcting them independently.

Fourth graders learn to recognize and avoid run-on and incomplete sentences. They also consider whether a situation calls for formal or informal English and choose which to use in their writing. For example, if a student writes dialogue between friends in a story, she may use informal English to convey their level of comfort with each other. However, she should switch back to formal English when narrating the events that occur.

If your child didn’t meet the Language Conventions standard...

  • Your child may mix up the order of adjectives when he writes, making the descriptions sound awkward.
  • Your child may not use common punctuation marks correctly.
  • Your child’s writing may include too many spelling errors.
How to help

Make writing fun

  • Fix it! — Write down a sentence with capitalization errors and ask your child to fix your mistakes. She’ll love feeling smarter than you and will practice her skills in the process.
  • Be an editor — If you notice a grammar or spelling mistake in an article or on a sign, ask your child to try to find the mistake.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

How is the grammar and punctuation in your child’s writing? Ask your child’s teacher. Bring in a couple of your child’s writing samples and ask the teacher to point out your child’s strengths and areas where his writing needs work. If necessary, develop goals to improve these skills.

4th grade

What’s fourth grade math all about? It boils down to a few key skills: multi-digit division and multiplication; adding, subtracting, and comparing fractions; and getting into geometry.

Major Content

What it means
How to help

Fourth graders are expected to learn:

  • Multi-step problems (with multi-digit numbers): Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing bigger numbers.
  • Fractions: Adding and subtracting fractions, multiplying fractions by a whole number, and comparing fractions.
  • Decimals: Converting fractions to decimals — and comparing decimals to the hundredths place.

Want to know more

In fourth grade, students use the four operations — addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division — to solve two-step problems. They also work more with fractions and place value.

Multi-digit numbers

Kids learn how to multiply two two-digit numbers (like 12 x 11) and how to multiply a four-digit number by a one-digit number (like 1,024 x 3).

Watch how fourth graders do multi-digit multiplication.


They also learn how to divide a four-digit number by a one-digit number (like 1,024 ÷ 3) and get answers that aren’t a whole number because they have a remainder. For example, 1,024 ÷ 3 = 341 with a remainder of 1, which is written as 341 R1.

Fourth graders practice adding and subtracting numbers up to 1,000,000, which requires a strong grasp of place value (ones place, tens place, hundreds place, etc.). Kids learn how to estimate answers and round up or down.


Fourth graders gain a deeper understanding of fractions. Students add and subtract fractions with the same denominator (bottom number). They learn to multiply a fraction by a whole number (example: 7 x 34), find equivalent fractions (fractions that are different but have the same value, such as 816 = 12), and compare fractions with different numerators (the top number) and denominators (the bottom number).

Watch how fourth graders compare fractions with different numerators and denominators.


Converting fractions to decimals

Students work more with decimals, including learning how to convert fractions with a denominator of 100 into a decimal. For example, 62100 becomes 0.62.

Comparing decimals

Kids develop their understanding of place value using decimals to the hundredths place. Students learn to compare decimals on a number line and use greater than (>), less than (<), and equal to (=) signs to show they understand, for example, that 0.06 < 0.60 and 1.6 = 1.60.

If your child doesn’t meet the Major Content standard...

  • Your child may not fully understand place value, making it difficult to add and subtract numbers within 1,000,000. (See sample problem 1.)
  • Your child may not be fluent with the 1-10 multiplication tables, making multi-digit multiplication and division challenging. (See sample problems 2 and 3.)
  • Your child may not fully understand the concept of fractions, and may have trouble adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions (see sample problems 4 and 5) or accurately locating fractions on a number line and comparing them to one another. (See sample problems 6 and 7.)
  • Your child may not understand that decimal notation is another way to express fractions with denominators that are powers of 10 (310 = 0.3, 4581000 = 0.458, etc.). (See sample problem 8.)

Sample problems

The four operations and place value

Kids make the jump from adding and subtracting numbers within 1,000 in third grade to working with numbers up to 1,000,000 in fourth grade. It requires fourth graders to quickly see that the 1 in 1,000,000 is in the millions place, the 9 in 987,554 is in the hundred-thousands place, and so on. Students also learn that in multi-digit numbers, a digit in a certain place represents 10 times what it represents in the place to its right. For example, in the number 224, the first number 2 represents 200, but the second number 2 represents 20. When adding numbers like 92,657 + 4,652, students have to understand place value to set up their problem correctly, aligning hundreds with hundreds, tens with tens, and ones with ones.


Sample problem 1: Addition with multi-digit numbers


Sample problem 2: Multiplication with multi-digit numbers


Sample problem 3: Division with multi-digit numbers



In fourth grade, students learn to add and subtract fractions with the same denominator (bottom number) and to multiply a fraction by a whole number.

Watch fourth graders doing word problems that involve fractions.


Sample problem 4: Adding and subtracting fractions


Fourth graders also need to be able to multiply a fraction by a whole number.

Sample problem 5: Multiplying a fraction by a whole number


Students learn to work with fractions with different denominators (the bottom number) and numerators (the top number). They also need to be able to explain why two fractions with different denominators can have the same value (also known as equivalent fractions).

Sample problem 6: Finding equivalent fractions


Students are also asked to compare fractions by creating visual fraction models or finding common denominators or numerators (bottom number and top number).

Sample problem 7: Comparing fractions


In fourth grade, students learn to write fractions with a denominator of 10 or 100 in decimal notation. They often learn to do this by decomposing numbers using what they known about place value. For example, to convert 12 34100 to 12.34, kids learn to break the number down to 10 + 2 + 310 + 4100 and then the fractions are converted to decimals, so it’s 10 + 2 + 0.3 + 0.04.

Sample problem 8: Decimal notation for fractions


How to help

Start with a great attitude

Attitude is contagious; so make sure yours is positive when talking to your child about math. There’s actually research showing that kids with “math-anxious” parents learn less than their classmates and become more anxious about math themselves.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Big number talk — When you come across a large number in a book or magazine, ask your child to tell you which number is in the millions place, the thousands place, and so on.
  • Shopping with decimals — Next time you’re shopping, get your child thinking about decimals by asking her to add the cost of two items with prices that include cents (for example, $1.99 + $5.05). Encourage your child to really think about the problem by promising to give her a fraction of the amount for a treat if her mental math produces the right answer (or close enough).
  • Bake cookies — Make cookies with your child, but use only the 12 cup for measuring so your child can practice working with equivalent fractions. For example, for that one cup of flour, have your child fill the 12 cup two times. And for that 14 cup of water? Ask your child how many fourths are equivalent to 12 cup of water. She can fill the 12 cup halfway. Or, to figure it out, she can fill the 14 cup with water and pour it into the 12 cup to show you how many 14 cups are in a 12 cup.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

Ask your child’s teacher what specific math skills your child is struggling with and how you can help. Tell the teacher about activities outside of school that your child enjoys and ask if there’s a way to work math into those activities.

Help your child ease test anxiety


Additional & Supporting Content

What it means
How to help

Fourth graders are expected to learn:

  • Factors: Finding factor pairs (all the pairs of numbers that can be multiplied to get a certain number). For example, the factor pairs for 12 are 3 × 4, 2 × 6, and 1 × 12.
  • Fractions: Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers and fractions to solve two-step word problems.
  • Geometry: Drawing and identifying angles, perpendicular and parallel lines, and right triangles. Finding perimeter and area in word problems (and when one length is missing).
  • Patterns: Identifying shape and number patterns and describing the rule for extending them.

Want to know more

Honestly, Additional and Supporting Content sounds a little like “feel free to ignore,” so we asked the experts to explain. This content is given less weight on the PARCC test. These skills support the Major Content for fourth grade and should help set your child up for success in future grades.


Fourth graders gain a new understanding of whole numbers by learning that they are the products of factors. For example, the number 6 has two factor pairs: 6 x 1 and 2 x 3; the number 42 has four factor pairs: 1 x 42, 2 x 21, 3 x 14, and 6 x 7. Learning about factors supports the major skills of doing multi-digit multiplication and division and finding equivalent fractions.


Fourth graders develop a stronger understanding of fractions and equivalent fractions (knowing that 48 is equivalent to 12, for example) by learning to place them on number a line.

For example, say students are asked to place the fractions 28, 34, and 12 on a number line. First, students will have to find the lowest common denominator (here it’s 4), find the equivalent fractions with the new common denominator (here it’s 14, 34, and 24), and then figure out where to place them correctly on the number line.



By the end of fourth grade, students are expected to fluently use all four operations (+, -, x, ÷) to solve two-step word problems involving perimeter and area of a shape, even if the length of one side is unknown. For example, the perimeter of this quadrilateral is 16 feet. If side A = 5 feet, side B = 2 feet, and side C = 6 feet, then how long is side D? First, students need to add the three known sides: 5 + 2 + 6 = 13. Second, they need to subtract 13 from 16 to find the length of side D: 3 feet.


Students also learn about angles, including how to measure them, how they’re classified (for example, a right angle = 90°), and how to draw them using a protractor. Fourth graders learn how to connect angles to fractions because each degree of an angle is 1360 of a 360 degree circle.

If your child didn’t meet the Additional & Supporting Content standard...

  • Your child may not understand how to find the factors of a whole number.
  • Your child may be confused by which operations to use (or what steps to take) when asked to solve word problems involving area and perimeter.
  • Your child may need help figuring out how to find the common denominator of fractions in order to place them in order on a number line.
  • Your child may have difficulty measuring angles or drawing angles with a protractor.
How to help

Start with a great attitude

Attitude is infectious. Having a positive attitude about math will rub off on your child and it’ll show in many positive ways. But beware: so will a negative attitude, so try to keep your math talk positive.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Angles, angles, everywhere — Does your child skateboard, do somersaults, or even twirl? Ask her to do a 360° (one full rotation). Next, ask her to demo a 720° & mdash; and to figure out how many rotations that is. Is a 180° even possible? Ask her why or why not.
  • Right, obtuse, or acute — Have your child do a detailed sketch of your house (the outside or one of the rooms inside). When he’s done, have him draw over the right angles in red, the obtuse angles in blue, and the acute angles in green. How many of each are there? Thinking about angles in everyday life can help your child understand the principle of a triangle’s angles adding up to 180°.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

You’re the expert on your child, but the teacher is the expert on how kids learn. Take advantage of the teacher’s knowledge by meeting to ask for tips and resources from the expert on how to help your child at home.

Help your child ease test anxiety


Mathematical Reasoning

What it means
How to help

Fourth graders are expected to learn to:

  • Describe: Writing a clear explanation of how they solved a problem and why it worked.
  • Critique: Looking at another student’s answer, evaluating it, and saying whether it’s right or wrong — and explaining why.
  • Revise: Offering ideas to others on how to correct their thinking or solving a problem differently.

Want to know more?

When students explain and defend their work, they can’t simply say, “I just know that it’s right!” Fourth graders need to be able to explain their work and defend their answers using words, charts, graphs, diagrams, drawings, and equations to illustrate the steps they took.

Students should be able to recognize when their reasoning has gone astray and explain the flaws in their logic. They also may be asked to (nicely) critique their classmates’ work.

If your child didn’t meet the Mathematical Reasoning standard...

  • Your child may answer questions correctly, but not be able to explain how he did it or why one procedure or strategy is better than another. (See sample problem 1.)
  • Your child may not be able to figure out why he or a classmate got the wrong answer. (See sample problem 2.)
  • Your child may be having trouble reading the problem, understanding what she’s reading, and/or verbalizing her thinking. Some kids may need to learn to slow down and/or re-read the problem to do a close reading. Other kids may need more help processing the problem and/or expressing their thoughts.

Note: If slowing down and re-reading doesn’t help your child, talk to the teacher about getting your child some extra help. (You may also want to read more about the signs of a reading issue.)

Sample problems

Explaining reasoning

Students are now asked to understand how math works and why. If kids have only been taught how to solve a problem using a certain procedure, they may be stumped when faced with a problem that doesn’t give them that step-by-step information. Fourth graders should be able to talk through their thinking and explain why something is true using words or pictures.

Sample problem 1: Explaining reasoning


Critiquing the reasoning of others

Teachers might use a question like the next one to figure out which students fully understand the concepts in a problem. To answer this question correctly, students need to know that 12 represents part of a whole and that half of something large is not equal to half of something small.

Sample problem 2: Critiquing the reasoning of others


How to help

Start with a great attitude

Research shows that confidence matters when it comes to math. When kids see themselves as capable at math, it boosts their willingness to stick with difficult problems. On the other hand, it’s not useful for kids to consider themselves “brilliant.” Overconfidence leads kids to shy away from difficult problems. How can you help? Make sure your child hears from you that she can learn math and be good at it, but it may take some effort.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Planes, trains, and automobiles — When driving in the car or riding the train, ask your child math facts (for example, 7 x 8 or 90 + 32). Ask your child to explain different ways she can find the answer. For example, 7 x 8 can be found by multiplying 5 x 8 to get 40 (a fact she will likely know) and 2 x 8 to get 16 and then adding 40 + 16 to get 56.
  • Glass 12 full? — Fill a glass of water halfway, and say If this glass is half full, what fraction of it is empty? Try it again with different amounts of water. This can get your child chatting about math (and maybe even a little philosophy).
  • Movie theater math — When you’re at a movie (or somewhere else with lots of people), ask your child to estimate how many people there are and to explain her reasoning.

Boost those skills

  • When completing homework, ask your child to explain her thinking. Encourage her to solve problems using different strategies. Some strategies to encourage your child’s thinking include using a number line, drawing illustrations, or explaining her reasoning in writing.
  • Talking to your child about math is easier (and more fun) than you think. Here are two resources to help you get started: 1) Watch the first few minutes of this Teaching Channel video to see how a teacher gets students to talk about their mathematical reasoning; and 2) Print out these Math Talk bookmarks! They’re a subtle reminder to talk about mathematical reasoning in everyday life.
  • Help your child get familiar with the upcoming test by taking the online practice math test part 1 and part 2.

Talk to your child’s teacher

Email is fine for a simple question, but if you want to have a conversation with your child’s teacher, arrange a face-to-face meeting. Explain to the teacher beforehand that you’d like to see copies of your child’s work to understand where she’s having difficulty. This way, the teacher will have time to put the materials together and spend some time thinking about your child’s needs before you meet.

Help your child ease test anxiety


Modeling & Application

What it means
How to help

Fourth graders are expected to learn to:

  • Analyze: Understanding multi-step, real-world word problems using data in models, sketches, tables, and graphs.
  • Visualize: Using appropriate tools (like protractors and rulers) and models (like diagrams, charts, graphs, tables, and number lines).
  • Organize: Deciding which procedures and operations to use to solve a problem — and in what order.

Want to know more?

We all know it’s important for kids to master basic procedures such as multiplication and division. But math is more than memorizing facts or even procedures. Math boosts an essential skill: problem solving. Kids learn problem solving when the path to solving the problem isn’t clear. To do this, kids need to learn skills that include modeling and data analysis.

Sound complicated? Actually, we do it every day. Modeling and application means taking a real-world problem and using math to solve it — with a graph, an equation, a table, or a drawing. For example, a problem like If you want to devote 13 of a 20-by-30 foot backyard to a vegetable garden, how many square feet would it need to be? could be solved using an equation or by drawing the backyard to scale and dividing it into three equal rectangles. This would be an example of using modeling to solve a real-world problem.

If your child didn’t meet the Modeling & Application standard...

  • Your child may need help figuring out new or different ways to solve problems, or may have trouble persevering when he gets stuck. (See sample problem 1.)
  • Your child may become confused when asked to solve a word problem with two or more steps. (See sample problem 1.)
  • Your child may get stuck when asked to show a real-world situation using math, for example writing an equation or creating an illustration to describe a situation. (See sample problem 1.)
  • Your child may find it challenging to understand data on a chart or graph. (See sample problem 2.)

Sample problems

Solving real-world problems

Fourth graders learn how to apply the math they know to solve problems in everyday life and to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. The test questions designed to measure these skills require students to be able to identify the important information in problems and figure out which steps to take and what tools to use (examples: pictures, graph paper, ruler) to find the answer. The following problem tests whether students can break down a multi-step problem and use pictures or equations involving multiplication to solve it.

Sample problem 1: Solving real-life, multi-step problems


Understanding data

The problem below asks students to make sense of the data in the chart and use it to find the answer.

Sample problem 2: Analyzing and using data from a chart


How to help

Start with a great attitude

Be enthusiastic about your child being a great problem solver! Emphasize how great problem-solving skills will allow your child to do more cool things on her own. Does she enjoy building things? Is she trying to raise money to buy something? Isn’t it nice when she can figure things out without your help? The more kids see the practical side of math, the more exciting it becomes.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Plan it! — Is your child excited about a new project, a birthday party, a hobby? Challenge your child to use her mathematical thinking by planning a project. If your child cares about a cause, have her create a financial plan to raise a certain amount of money for it through a lemonade stand or some mini-entrepreneurial effort. Once the goal is set, have your child work backwards to figure out how much she will have to earn (and in what timeframe) to achieve her goal.
  • Play meteorologist — Get your child to check the upcoming weather for a weekend outing. Ask him to look beyond the cartoon sun and look at charts and graphs about expected and historical weather patterns.
  • What do you think? — When your child gets stuck and asks you for help, try saying What do you think you should try? Getting her to problem-solve on her own will sharpen this important skill.

Boost those skills

Talk to the teacher

Ask your child’s teacher how you can help your child identify flaws in mathematical reasoning. Find out what questions you could ask your child to get him to focus on places where he tends to make mistakes. Ask the teacher to point out examples in your child’s work where he struggled with a concept so you’ll have a better understanding of how to help.

Help your child ease test anxiety


About GreatKids State Test Guide for Parents

GreatKids created this guide to help you understand your child's state test scores and to support your child's learning all year long. We worked with SBAC and leading teachers in every grade to break down what your child needs to know and exactly how you can help

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