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GreatKids State Test Guide for Parents

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


6th grade
ELA/Literacy Skills

Sixth graders analyze the meaning, structure, and purpose of fiction and nonfiction texts, including historical, scientific, and technical texts. When writing, students consider their audience and the purpose for writing before selecting which writing style to use. They use linking words to help the flow of their writing and correctly use a variety of pronouns.

Reading Literature (Fiction)

What it means
How to help

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

  • Use examples or quotes from the text when summarizing or explaining the theme.
  • Describe how a story unfolds and how characters respond to events.
  • Compare a print version of a story or play to an audio or visual version.

Want to know more?

When reading literature, sixth graders should explain how an author develops the narrator’s point of view. For example, they should be able to explain how the events in the beginning of a story or narrative poem lead naturally to those in the end of the story and how details help readers see these connections. To back up these conclusions, students should be able to point to words or passages from the poem, play, or story and explain how they help a reader to understand the narrator’s point of view.

Watch how a teacher gets middle schoolers to talk about what they’re reading.


Students also need to compare how two different types of literature, or genres, approach a similar theme. For example, how do Island of the Blue Dolphins (historical fiction) and Ella Enchanted (fantasy) address the theme of girls surviving in their environments in different ways?

Sixth graders should be able to recognize how a text’s structure influences the story. For instance, they should see how very short chapters contribute to the suspense in a mystery story.

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

  • Your child may struggle to describe the events of a story in order or may leave out details important to the resolution of the story.
  • Your child may need help describing similarities and differences between reading, listening to, or watching a version of a story.
  • Your child may have difficulty summarizing the story by identifying the most important events.
How to help

Best ways to help your child

Offer your child opportunities to practice reading challenging texts, such as Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Make reading fun by catering to your child’s diverse interests. Explore mystery, science fiction, poetry, and plays. Your sixth grader should be reading for at least 30 minutes a day. Here are some challenging books that also play to sixth graders’ interests.

Family reading time

Want to know one of the most powerful ways to inspire your child to read? Read for your own pleasure! Seeing you read a book or magazine goes a long way toward showing how reading enriches a person’s life. Establish a regular 30-minute (or more) family reading time (daily is best, but weekly sends the right message). Everyone in the family has a book, magazine, or tablet to read. When the time ends, ask everyone to share what they found interesting or confusing about their reading.


Find out what your child enjoys reading and look for audiobooks that can jumpstart the process. (The public library has a large collection of audiobooks that you can borrow for free.) Have her listen to the first few chapters, maybe on a car ride. Then, once she’s hooked, give her the book so she can finish the story. Children can often understand texts above their level if they’re highly interested. Audiobooks can be a wonderful way to add some reading firepower to long school commutes!

Talk to your child’s teacher

Sixth graders need to be good at comparing versions of stories, describing plots, and using details from a story when summarizing. Ask your child’s teacher if your child has these skills. Is your child quick to identify the theme? Does he tend to draw the right conclusions? When your child points to details, are they integral to the story or extraneous? Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses will help you figure out the best ways to help.

Reading Information (Nonfiction)

What it means
How to help

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

  • Understand the central idea and the supporting details of scientific and social science texts.
  • Recognize which claims in an argument are supported by reasons and which ones are not.
  • In history, compare information from texts written during the time when the events occurred (primary documents) and historical writing since that time (secondary documents).

Want to know more?

Sixth graders are learning how to read science and social studies texts. They need to know how to analyze what these texts say, whether they’re about scientific concepts (the Earth’s orbit, say) or they are historical documents (like the First Amendment to the Constitution).

Sixth graders are expected to read science and social studies articles and books with a critical eye. This means asking questions that get at the author’s intention: What is the author’s background? Who is the author writing for? Why might the author write this piece at this moment in history?

Sixth graders also need to learn to recognize which statements are backed by evidence and which are not. What proof does the writer give for her ideas? Does the evidence make sense? As they read science and social studies texts they should be able to explain if information is a fact, a judgement based on research, or an opinion.

At this stage, your child should recognize which details are related to the central idea and which are slightly off topic. Take an article about how great white sharks use the element of surprise to hunt their prey. It might be interesting to know that they can go one or two months without another big meal, but that information is not directly related to their use of surprise in hunting.

Sixth graders should be able to explain how graphic aids, like a photograph or chart, contribute to the information in the text.

Watch how middle schoolers do research on a topic.


Sixth graders should be able to precisely follow a procedure to carry out a science experiment. In social studies, they should be able to identify important steps in a process, for example describing how a bill becomes a law.

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

  • Your child may be confused by text explaining scientific or governmental procedures.
  • Your child may struggle to tell the difference between facts, conclusions backed by research, and opinions.
  • Your child may struggle to understand an author’s reason for writing.
  • Your child may not be using the graphic aids provided in the text.
  • Your child may not be able to follow step-by-step procedures required in science labs.
How to help

Best ways to help your child

Offer your child opportunities to practice reading texts that are considered challenging for sixth graders and are related to science and social studies concepts she’s studying, such as Vincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

Make reading fun by catering to your child’s interests. This means not just reading books but magazines, online articles, and blogs. Your sixth grader should be reading for at least 30 minutes a day. Here are some challenging books for your sixth grader.

Family reading time

Want to know one of the most powerful ways to inspire your child to read? Read for your own pleasure! Seeing you read the morning newspaper goes a long way toward showing how reading can enrich a person’s life. One night a week, have everyone read one nonfiction article and discuss it over dinner.

Hands-on with the world

Children learn through doing. Explore a museum or park and let your child’s questions about what he sees guide your conversation. By talking about that jellyfish at the aquarium, for example, you will build vocabulary and stimulate curiosity. Then look for a book that builds on something that caught your child’s interest. (Museums can be pricey, but most have at least one free day per month.)

Talk to your child’s teacher

Sixth graders need to be good at identifying the central idea, drawing conclusions, and finding evidence in what they read. When you talk to your child’s teacher, ask: Is my child able to identify the central idea? Does he tend to draw the right conclusions? Does my child typically use strong evidence to back up her thinking or is she sidetracked by unrelated details? Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses will let you help your child build these skills. Ask the teacher for suggestions on what kinds of questions to ask your child at home to help him focus on important details in what he reads.

Reading: Vocabulary

What it means
How to help

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

  • Use a range of strategies to understand the meaning of words.
  • Understand figures of speech, word relationships, and nuances of meaning.
  • Understand science or social studies vocabulary used in sixth grade text. (Any book, article, video, website, or audio is considered text.)

Want to know more?

As a sixth grader’s vocabulary grows, so should his ability to understand the subtle differences in meaning between similar words. Sixth graders learn to compare the emotions associated with words that have similar meanings. For example, the words stingy and thrifty both have to do with spending little money. However, stingy describes someone who doesn’t want to give or spend, while thrifty describes someone who uses money carefully and is not wasteful. Stingy has a negative connotation.

To make sense of unknown words, sixth graders should be able to use several strategies, including figuring out a word’s meaning from context, looking up a word in the dictionary, and getting the idea of a word from its root word, prefix, or suffix. For example, if they know micro means small, they can figure out that microprocessor might mean a really small processor.

Sixth graders should also be able to think symbolically when reading figurative language. When faced with an idiom such as stuck between a rock and a hard place, they should know this isn’t about being wedged underneath a literal boulder. Figurative language can be especially challenging for kids who are learning English. Imagine trying to understand Let sleeping dogs lie by translating it word for word.

Sixth graders continue to learn academic vocabulary, words used broadly in many subjects, like encourage or infer. But they should also be learning words used in social studies and science, such as amendment in history class and solstice in science.

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

  • Your child may not use context to make sense of unfamiliar words.
  • Your child may not know the grade-level root words necessary for figuring out new words.
  • Your child may not understand the connotation of some words, and therefore misunderstand the author’s tone.
  • Your child may not recognize figurative language or idiomatic expressions.
How to help

Build a big vocabulary, one word at a time

It’s important for sixth graders to build their academic vocabulary. These words are broadly used, but kids sometimes have trouble understanding their meaning. The words encourage, unique, chronological, and priority are examples of academic vocabulary. Print out this list of academic vocabulary words that your sixth grader should know and post it on your fridge. Use these words in conversation, and see if your child can use them too. Encourage your child to read and listen to texts about many different subjects. This will help improve your child’s reading, speaking, and writing skills. Sign up for GreatWords, our free vocabulary-boosting text message program, to get daily text messages with 6th grade academic vocabulary words. To get started, text WORDS to 88769. (See terms and conditions.)

Identify context clues

When your child doesn’t know the meaning of a word, ask her what words or phrases provide clues to the meaning, rather than just giving the definition or asking her to look up the word in a dictionary.

Books with figurative language

As the texts they read get increasingly challenging, sixth graders see more metaphors (comparisons of two unlike things — life is a highway) and similes (comparisons using like or asas brave as a lion). To understand these, children need lots of opportunities to read or hear figurative language, as well as explanations. Look for books that use metaphoric language. Talk about the words used to make comparisons. Here are a few books teachers recommend:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Encounter by Jane Yolen
Fair Weather by Richard Peck

Talk to your child’s teacher

Ask your child’s teacher about her vocabulary skills. Does she use a variety of strategies to understand new words? If your child is struggling, ask what you can do to help.

Written Expression

What it means
How to help

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

  • Develop strong, clear ideas backed by evidence in argumentative and informational writing.
  • Create characters, settings, and events in narrative writing using description, dialogue, and transition words.
  • Provide enough detail and examples to help the audience understand what is being communicated.

Want to know more?

When given a writing prompt, sixth graders should recognize and choose the most appropriate writing style. Does the prompt call for a story (narrative writing), a report (informational writing), or a need to persuade the reader of a point of view (argumentative writing)?

In earlier grades, persuasive writing was called opinion writing, but in sixth grade it’s called writing an argument. Now, students are expected to analyze an issue and be able to support their ideas using reasons from credible sources.

To do this, sixth graders should know how to draw evidence from what they’ve read to support the reasons they give when making an argument. For example, when trying to convince a reader that exercise is fun, a student might write Some people think exercise is hard, painful, and boring, but research shows it can be more enjoyable than watching TV.

Watch middle schoolers develop an informational essay.


In all writing, students need to develop ideas or events fully by using enough details to ensure their audience understands what they’re describing. They should carefully choose the linking phrases that connect different passages, like next, then, and after a while.

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

  • Your child may have trouble organizing ideas clearly or backing up ideas or arguments with evidence.
  • Your child may not know how to use description, dialogue, or linking words to build a story.
  • Your child may not provide enough detail and examples when writing to help the audience really understand what she is trying to communicate.
How to help

Make writing fun

Think of reading and listening as breathing in information, while writing and speaking are like breathing out information. You can’t do one without the other. To help your child write clearly, have him explore the topic by reading, talking, and listening before he begins writing.

  • Follow their passion — At school, students may have some choice about what they write; but it’s probably limited. At home, the sky’s the limit! Does your child follow a sports team? Encourage him to research and write about its origins, players, and stadium. Does she play video games? Ask her to write a story that involves the characters and places from the game.
  • Authentic audience — Ask your child to think about a topic she is passionate about, and then help her brainstorm who she might share it with. Maybe she’ll write a letter to a sports fan club or share her ideas about video games with other gamers. Take advantage of every writing opportunity: thank-you letters, well-written emails to the teacher about how to improve her grade, and letters to favorite authors. Wanting to impress the audience will motivate her to be clear and check her work for errors.
  • Convince me! — Help your child improve his reasoning skills by asking him to list pros and cons of two ideas where there’s ample room for disagreement, like playing outdoors vs. playing video games. Ask him to list benefits and drawbacks of each. Then, have a debate — and see who wins.

Talk to your child’s teacher

Sixth graders may struggle to fully develop their ideas. Ask your child’s teacher what questions you can ask to help your child move beyond the obvious and develop stronger arguments and ideas in his writing.

Writing: Knowledge and Use of Language Conventions

What it means
How to help

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

  • Correctly use a variety of pronouns to clearly express ideas in writing.
  • Use commas, parentheses, and dashes to add details to a sentence.
  • Include a variety of sentence structures — short and simple, long and complex — to make writing more interesting.

Want to know more?

Sixth graders’ grammar is improving. They become experts on pronouns, words like he or they that often replace nouns in a sentence. Students should be able to use the following types of pronouns correctly:

  • Subjective pronouns — those that can take the place of the subject in a sentence: He spent lots of money at the mall.
  • Objective pronouns — those that take the place of the object in a sentence: Take this folder to him.
  • Possessive pronouns — those that tell the reader who owns something: The red cup is mine.
  • Intensive pronouns — those that emphasize the noun that comes before the pronoun: I myself prefer tea to coffee.

Sixth graders should also know how to use commas, parentheses, and dashes to add related information to the sentence. Here’s an example of dashes: Even the simplest tasks — washing, dressing, and going to school — were nearly impossible after I broke my leg.

As with previous grades, sixth graders are expected to spell grade-level words correctly and use a variety of sentence patterns to keep their writing interesting.

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

  • Your child may not use pronouns correctly.
  • Your child may struggle to punctuate phrases that add related information to a sentence.
  • Your child may use the same sentence structure often, making his writing less interesting to read.
How to help

Color code

If your child needs more practice using the correct pronoun when writing, have him highlight the nouns in a short piece of writing. Then, for each noun, ask your student how he could rewrite the sentence using a pronoun. Ask your child how he knows which pronoun is the right replacement (getting your child to use what he should know about subjective, objective, possessive, and intensive pronouns).

Extend the sentence

Write a few simple sentences and ask your child to add related information, using the correct punctuation to set it off from the rest of the sentence. For example, if the sentence is My brother doesn’t remember our first house, your child could extend it by adding the phrase who is five years younger than me and setting it off with commas: My brother, who is five years younger than me, doesn’t remember our first house.

Talk to your child’s teacher

Ask your child’s teacher how she’s doing in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. If she needs to improve these skills, create a plan with your child and the teacher to work toward these goals.

6th grade

When you calculate a tip, that’s percents. Compare the number of cupcakes to kids? You’re doing ratios. Dividing ⅔ by ¾? That’s dividing fractions. Solving equations with a variable? You’re on the road to algebra. These are the big ideas in sixth grade.

Major Content

What it means
How to help

Sixth graders are expected to learn:

  • Fractions: Dividing fractions.
  • Ratios: Using ratios and percents to represent relationships between different quantities, sizes, and values.
  • Negative numbers: Working with negative numbers and plotting them on number lines and coordinate planes.
  • Pre-algebra: Working with variables to write and solve equations (e.g., 2x = 36 – x) and inequalities (e.g., x < 2).

Want to know more

What math concept should all sixth graders nail before starting seventh grade?


Dividing fractions

Sixth graders move from multiplying fractions to dividing fractions, such as 34 ÷ 23. Kids learn to do this by drawing pictures and by learning to “flip” one of the fractions and multiply to find the answer, so that 34 ÷ 23 becomes 34 x 32 = 98 = 1 18. Sixth graders learn to check their work using the understanding that when you divide a fraction by a fraction, you’re seeing how many times one fractional size can fit into another, so the answer is always bigger than the fractions they start with. Here, 1 18 is larger than 34 and 23.


Sixth graders also learn about ratios, which are a way to compare two related numbers of things or quantities. For example, imagine you have 12 fish in your fish tank. If 8 of them are angelfish and 4 of them are starfish, that’s a ratio of 8 to 4. It can also be written as 8:4. Kids learn to work with these number relationships using ratios, percents, tables, graphs, and equations.

Watch these sixth graders explain ratios.


Students need to understand how ratios work because they’ll be called on to use this knowledge practically every day to compare prices, follow recipes, and figure out how many miles your car gets with each gallon of gas. Ratios have associated rates, which is a way of explaining the relationship using the terms per or for each. If you’re driving 50 miles each hour, that’s a rate of 50 miles per hour. Knowing that rate, students can figure out how long it will take to travel 200 miles.

Sixth graders should also begin learning about percents, which are ratios expressed as a fraction of 100.

Negative numbers

Sixth graders start using a number line that includes negative numbers. Students need to see — and understand — that negative 3 is the same distance from zero in one direction on a number line as positive 3 is in the other direction. Working with negative numbers, students gain a new sense of how to put numbers in order on a number line and compare the value of negative and positive numbers.


Sixth grade is the year that students get started on algebra. Students need to learn how to read, write, and evaluate algebraic expressions and equations in which a letter (also called a variable) stands in for an unknown number (e.g., x – 32 = 14). In sixth grade, kids work with equations with only one variable.

If your child didn’t meet the Major Content standard…

  • Your child may not fully understand the concept of fractions, which makes it difficult to understand what it means to divide fractions. (See sample problem 1.)
  • Your child may not be sure how to use ratios and rates to solve problems. (See sample problem 2.)
  • Your child may not understand how to find a rate or a unit rate from a ratio. (See sample problem 3.)
  • Your child may not understand percents or how to use benchmark percentages — such as 10%, 25%, 50% — to quickly and accurately calculate a part of a whole or a percentage. (See sample problem 4.)
  • Your child may not understand that numbers can be positive or negative. Many kids have trouble understanding negative numbers and how they are used in the real world. (See sample problem 5.)
  • Your child may need practice setting up and solving one-step equations and inequalities that have variables, such as 3 + x = 15, x – 10 = 22, 15x = 45, x ÷ 6 = 5, or x + 7 < 12. (See sample problems 6 and 7.)
  • Your child may not know how to find the value of an inequality or how to show that value on a number line. (See sample problem 8.)

Sample problems

Dividing fractions

Sixth graders divide fractions by fractions — a more conceptually difficult task than, say, dividing a fraction by a whole number. Dividing a fraction by a fraction can be tricky to visualize, so drawing pictures can be helpful for students when solving problems like 910 divided by 410.

Watch this video from LearnZillion for an explanation of dividing fractions.

Sample problem 1: Dividing a fraction by a fraction


Using ratios to solve problems

Sixth graders work on three main skills using ratios: 1) ratio and rate language; 2) recognizing, generating, and graphing pairs of equivalent ratios; and 3) comparing ratios. Ratios express the relative size of two (or more) quantities or numbers. Kids talk about ratios using words such as 3 to 2, or 3 for every 2, or 3 out of every 5, or 3 parts to 2 parts.

Watch how sixth graders calculate equivalent ratios.


Sample problem 2: Using ratios to solve problems


Understanding rates and unit rates

Ratios have associated rates. For example, the ratio 3 feet for every 2 seconds has the associated rate 32 feet for every 1 second. In sixth grade, students describe rates in terms like for each 1, for each, and per. This is called the unit rate.

Students can calculate the unit rate of a ratio to compare two quantities or find proportional rates (like speed). In the following problem, students must draw on their knowledge of rates to determine who walks faster per 1 second. Why? Because it’s difficult to compare walking rates when they’re in different amounts of time.

Sample problem 3: Calculating and comparing unit rates


Percents and benchmark percents

Students also learn about percents,which means per 100. As they become familiar with percents, students will be able to do mental math using common percentages known as benchmark percents, such as 10%, 25%, and 50%. Knowing how to do these calculations in your head comes in handy when you want to leave a 20% tip on a $36 restaurant bill, or when you want to know how much money you’ll save when a $35 pair of jeans is 15% off.

Sample problem 4: Percents


Understanding negative numbers

In sixth grade, kids step backwards, numerically speaking, to learn about negative numbers. On the surface, it may seem impossible for something to be less than zero, but negative numbers serve a purpose in daily life. If you accidentally take too much money out of the ATM machine, your bank balance could go below zero. If you live in a region prone to droughts or floods, the water level may be described as below or above sea level, with 0 representing sea level. Not enough water, or below sea level, is a negative number. By the end of sixth grade, your child should understand situations that involve negative numbers (like the ones just mentioned). Sixth graders should also be able to place negative numbers on a number line to show the relationship between numbers. (For example, –12 is less than –5 because it is farther away from 0 — and –12 degrees is colder than –5 degrees.)

Sample problem 5: Negative numbers


Algebraic expressions and equations

Since kindergarten, students have been writing numerical expressions, starting with basic addition, such as (2 + 3), and moving into more complex problems, such as (8 x 5) + (2 x 6). In sixth grade, students need to write algebraic expressions using variables, or letters, to represent unknown numbers. For example, subtracting y from 5 would be written as 5 – y.

Sixth graders use variables to solve word problems a lot. A test question might pose this situation: Daniel spent $10 on 5 candy bars. Write an equation to determine how much each candy bar cost. The answer is 5x = 10 or 10 ÷ 5 = x, where x is the cost of one candy bar. Students should be able to write the equation and explain what the variable stands for in the problem. Here’s another one.

Sample problem 6: Writing and solving equations with variables


Sixth graders also use variables with ratios and rates. For example, let’s say you’re driving at a speed of 60 miles an hour. Students may be asked to create an equation showing the distance traveled after 3 hours. It would look like this: 3 x 60 = x.

In the following word problem, students must first identify the patterns for x and y before calculating the relationship between x and y.

Sample problem 7: Working with variables in ratios and rates


Interpreting inequalities

Sixth graders also work with inequalities, which are expressions that show two things that are not equal. Inequalities use the signs > (greater than), < (less than), or ≠ (not equal). Students should be able to interpret inequalities and represent them on a number line.

For example, the inequality x > –2 shows that the variable, x, is greater than –2. Since x is a variable, it includes all numbers greater than –2, such as –1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. The inequality x > –2 is shown on the number line below. The arrow means that it goes on forever in that direction, meaning that x can equal any number greater than –2.


Sample problem 8: Inequalities


How to help

Start with a great attitude

The most important thing you can do to help your child with math is to have a positive attitude toward math, and find ways to demonstrate that to your child. Why? Because research shows that a parent’s attitude toward math is contagious; so just by having a good attitude you are helping your child with math. So yes, you are a math whiz — and your child will be one, too.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Is it on sale? — Whenever there’s an item on sale, ask your child to figure out what it will cost after the discount. Pose reverse questions, too. For those $50 jeans your child wants, how much would they need to go on sale for the total price to drop to $25?
  • Are we there yet? — When you’re going somewhere, ask your child how long it will take to get there if it’s 15 miles away and you’re driving at 60 miles an hour.
  • Pancake calculations — Ask your child to figure out the ratio of flour to milk in your favorite pancake recipe. Then ask him to double (or halve) the recipe.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

There’s a lot going on in sixth grade math. You’ll want the teacher’s help identifying your child’s trouble spots so you can help work on those at home. Is your child having difficulty doing the problems — or is it the math reasoning? (For example, does he struggle with dividing fractions, writing equations, or illustrating proportional relationships with ratios — or is it more that he doesn’t get why dividing a fraction by a fraction requires multiplication?) Ask the teacher to help identify the specifics.

Help your child ease test anxiety


Additional & Supporting Content

What it means
How to help

Sixth graders are expected to learn:

  • Area and volume: Finding the area of two-dimensional shapes and the surface area and volume of three-dimensional shapes.
  • Factors: Understanding factors (e.g., the factors of 12 are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12) and multiples (e.g., the multiples of 12 are 12, 24, 36, 48, etc.).
  • Word problems and the four operations (+, –, x, ÷): Solving two-step problems involving multi-digit numbers and decimals.
  • Statistics: Starting to understand the numbers behind statistics and plotting data on number lines, dot plots, histograms, and more.

Want to know more?

If this were the Academy Awards, this category would be best supporting actor and actress. They’re not the stars, but the movie wouldn’t exist without them. This content is given less weight on the PARCC exam, but it supports the major work of the sixth grade and sets your child up for success in future grades.

For example, solving two-step, multi-digit problems improves understanding of algebraic expressions, which is a major area this year — and will be a major skill in future grades, too.

Also, students are expected to know how to collect and represent data as part of learning about statistics and probability, which is an additional skill that builds on the major skills like analyzing relationships between quantities using ratios and understanding negative numbers.

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

  • Your child may have difficulty finding the area of two-dimensional shapes or the surface area and volume of three-dimensional shapes.
  • Your child may need practice finding factors and multiples of numbers. (e.g., the factors of 8 are 1, 2, 4, 8; the multiples of 8 are 8, 16, 24, 32, etc.)
  • Your child may need to work on plotting data on number lines, graphs, and charts or interpreting what data means.
How to help

Start with a great attitude

Like Brussels sprouts, math has a bad rap. Both are good for you, and both can be enjoyable if properly prepared. So spice up the way you talk to your child about math — and maybe let her use the Brussels sprouts to juggle.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Statistics are all around — especially in the news. Pick something your child is interested in (sports, pop culture, shark diving off the coast of South Africa) and read an article or two on the topic. What statistics are cited? Discuss together what those stats do — and don’t — really tell you.
  • Factors aren’t just numbers — they’re anything that goes into a final product. Make a practice of discussing why you’re making certain decisions. For example, what’s a factor in your decision to have eggs instead of cereal today? It’ll help your child understand factors in a new way.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

Is your child on track to succeed in sixth grade math? Ask the teacher! If not, what are his strengths and weaknesses? Find out how you can help your child work on weak areas at home.

Help your child ease test anxiety


Mathematical Reasoning

What it means
How to help

Sixth graders are expected to learn how to:

  • Process: Using mathematical reasoning to analyze word problems and map out the steps and procedures needed to solve them.
  • Justify: Presenting a clear and logical explanation to defend their work and critique their classmates’ work using accurate vocabulary, diagrams that represent the relationship between important data, and the right calculations.
  • Evaluate: Identifying errors in math, whether it’s that the answer is incorrect or that there are flaws in the reasoning, and offering solutions to correct the mistakes.

Want to know more?

How did I do this? How do I know I got the right answer? Can I explain my work to the class? Sixth graders will be asking themselves these questions all year. Throughout the year, they need to use their new knowledge of ratios, the number system, and expressions and equations to explain how they arrived at an answer. They need to prove why their answer to a problem is correct. Also, they’re asked to (nicely) evaluate their classmates’ work to identify solid math thinking and to make suggestions that will make it even better. Sixth graders need to be able to use their knowledge of mathematical rules to defend their work. For example, they need to be able to explain why –3 x –2 = 6 or why –3 x 2 = –6.

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

  • Your child may struggle to explain why the strategy she chose to solve a problem worked.
  • Your child may have difficulty reviewing a classmate’s work and identifying flaws in reasoning. (See sample problems 1 and 2.)
  • Your child may have trouble figuring out different or more efficient ways to solve problems.

Sample problems

Analyze right and wrong answers

Students should be able to analyze how a problem has been solved and, if it’s not right, point out where things went wrong. Kids also need to be able to explain what the correct solution would be and how — and why — it works. Sixth graders need to be able to use mathematical language and definitions in their explanations.

Sample problem 1: Evaluating other kids’ answers using reasoning


Reason through problems

Students need to be able to use the skills they know to answer questions and figure out how to go about solving multi-part problems. They also have to understand the math well enough to explain their work and use their knowledge of concepts and procedures to support their reasoning. The following problem requires all of that.

Sample problem 2: Supporting reasoning


How to help

Start with a great attitude

Here’s a riddle based on rational numbers (Hint: including negative numbers). See if your child gets it. Use jokes and riddles to get into the right mindset: math is fun and entertaining!

A physicist, a biologist, and a mathematician are sitting on a bench across from a house. They watch as two people go into the house, and then a little later, three people walk out.

The physicist says, “The initial measurement was incorrect.”

The biologist says, “They must have reproduced.”

And the mathematician says, “If exactly one person enters that house, it will be empty.”

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Celebrate math out loud for a day! — Since much of an adult’s everyday life is filled with mental math, spend one day sharing these usually silent calculations with your child. You can start from the moment you get up and begin counting backward to figure out if your child is going to be ready for school on time; share the countdown with her. Ask your child to guess the number of miles you can get out of your current tank before you have to buy more gas. All day long, share your mathematical thinking with your child and challenge her to participate in the math of your family life. Can she figure out how much you will spend on dinner? Or can she calculate the time it will take to get home if there’s traffic that reduces your speed by half?

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

You don’t have to wait for the parent-teacher conference to talk to your child’s teacher. Arrange a meeting and talk sooner rather than later. Ask the teacher what the class is working on, and ask specifically what your child is doing well and where he is struggling. If you can, look at examples of your child’s work while you talk — it makes it easier to understand how you can help. Ask for tips on how you can help your child improve, as well as suggestions for other resources outside of school, such as websites or workbooks.

Help your child ease test anxiety


Modeling & Application

What it means
How to help

Sixth graders are expected to learn how to:

  • Make a plan: Analyzing real-world problems and developing a plan to solve them.
  • Create a model: Making a model — which can be a diagram, chart, graph, table, or equation — to illustrate the problem and help solve it.
  • Evaluate and refine: Determining whether or not answers make sense. If they don’t, then modifying the model until it works.

Want to know more?

Modeling and application means taking a problem from everyday life and using math to solve it. This may mean creating a graph, picture, number line, table, equation, or other model to analyze and represent the relationships between different quantities. The purpose is to help kids learn different ways to visualize, understand, and solve real-world problems.

Modeling is at the heart of mathematics; it’s the link between what students learn in class and the process they use to make sense of (and solve) real-world challenges.

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?

See how a sixth grader solves a word problem involving ratios.


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

  • Your child may have trouble making sense of a situation and determining what needs to be solved. (See sample problems 1 and 2.)
  • Your child may need help figuring out or understanding new, different, or more efficient ways to solve problems. (See sample problem 2.)
  • Your child may have trouble understanding how to interpret or create a graph, chart, table, or equation that shows the relationship between two quantities. (See sample problem 3.)
  • Your child may have trouble evaluating her answer to see if it’s correct and modifying the process if it didn’t work as planned. (See sample problem 3.)
  • Your child may have trouble evaluating her answer to see if it’s reasonable.

Sample problems

Analyze and efficiently solve problems

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 the best tools to use (for example, pictures, graph paper, or a ruler) to find the answer. Many problems can be solved using a variety of techniques. Your child should be able to find the technique that works for him, while also understanding how and why other approaches work.

Sample problem 1: Analyzing a problem and using models to solve it


Relationship between quantities

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 use a model to determine the feasibility of completing a project in a specific amount of time.

Sample problem 2: Creating a model to understand and solve a problem


Interpreting models and evaluating answers

Sample problem 3: Evaluating a model to see if an answer makes sense


How to help

Start with a great attitude

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.

Sprinkle math into everyday activities

  • Drawing & math — Is your child the artsy type? Talk to him about how ratios are important in art. Can he draw two pictures that are in a scale of 3 to 1? There’s a ratio! Two parts red paint to three parts blue paint: another ratio!
  • What’s the better deal? — Help your child see how you use problem solving in everyday life. Let’s say you’re food shopping and see two brands of macaroni and cheese on sale. One brand is normally $1.99 and is 20 percent off. The other brand is normally $2.99 and is 30 percent off. Ask your child to figure out which is the better buy.
  • Weather chart — Choose a city that experiences cold winters (maybe your hometown) and look up the temperatures on the five coldest days last winter. Create a number line with your child and put those five temperatures on the line and compare them.

Boost those skills

Talk to your child’s teacher

Teachers want to work with you to help your child. Ask for specific information about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. What math exercises can the teacher suggest for you to try at home? Maybe there’s a game that’s excellent modeling practice — or a card game that boosts reasoning skills. The teacher will know: all you have to do is ask!

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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