Simple Strategies to help your Third Grader through Sixth Grader Learn About Math

Here are a few ideas to keep the learning going at home! Math is all around us, but sometimes we simply don’t know how to show our kids this. Here are some fun things you can do at each level of learning from Third through Sixth Grade.

Third Grade

Continue to have positive discussions and positive engagements with math. Try to make your math practice at home as “real-world” as possible. Third graders are learning their multiplication and division facts. It is important that you try to reinforce this idea at your house. Remember that multiplication is repeated addition and division is repeated subtraction. In the repeated addition, you count up to get a total. In repeated division, you count how many times you subtracted the repeated amount to get the dividend (or answer to the division problem.)

Example for repeated addition to reinforce a multiplication fact. You have 3 pairs of socks. You can count 3 sets of 2 which is the same as 3 X 2, and get a product of 6 total socks.

Example of division, you can take the 6 socks, and put them into groups of 2 and count the groups. You will have three groups. That is the same as 6 divided by 2 equals 3.

Get out that money I suggested you use in my previous post and work on understanding coins and dollars in the U.S. System of Money. Your child really needs to have a complete understanding of what our money looks like, how to count it, and how to write it correctly. When you have your child count up amounts, focus on writing the amounts on a sheet of paper or a whiteboard with an erasable marker. Remember to use the cent sign and show your child that 25 cents can also be written with a zero, a decimal and the number. This will help them out when they begin to learn how to add and subtract money. Once your child can write values under a dollar, then move to writing values with dollar amounts. You can go as high as your child is ready for. If you don’t have the real money at home, or you don’t want your child to use them, then order some. Here is a link from Amazon that you can go to get some. (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”) I will add a few more links in this article that you can look at if you’d like to. But, you do not need to purchase anything. Some people appreciate the links so they don’t have to go and look for them. If you don’t want to purchase money, get creative and make some or use play money that goes with a game.

Your child will be learning about fractions. A great way to practice this is to do some art work. You can draw circles and then draw lines cutting them into sections. (Just be sure the sections are all the same size.) Then your child can color a section of them. The colored section will represent the numerator of the fraction and the whole circle will represent the denominator. For example, you draw a circle and create 4 equal parts. You color 3 of them. The fraction is 3/4. 3 parts colored out of 4 total parts. This is a fun activity, but will go along way to supporting your child’s understanding of fractions. Get as creative as you want to be.

Telling time to the minute is a skills that all third graders will benefit from. Most of the time they will work on hour, half hour, and learn 5 minute amounts, but I would suggest your build on their understanding and go to the minute. Help your child understand what that looks like on an analog clock as well as a digital clock. Then help your child learn how to write it down correctly. If you read a clock and it was two twenty-three P.M. you would write it as 2:23 P.M. If you don’t have a clock, but want one to use with a more hands-on approach, I would recommend a Judy Clock. These are not as realistic, but they are great for counting the minutes on the clock. Here is the link for the Judy Clock. (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”)

Help your child understand distances. If your child has some understanding of inches, feet, yards, miles, they will have background knowledge that will support their understanding when they are using it in their math and science classes. Use a ruler at home, talk about distances when you are driving, discuss feet and yards when you are outside so your child begins to understand these measurements.

Be sure to practice those math facts. Do not assume that your child remembers their addition and subtraction facts. Do not assume they know their multiplication and division facts. Play a board game, but use math flashcards while you are playing. Your child can only make their play by answering the math fact correctly. If they don’t know it, the card goes to the next person and if they answer it correctly, they get to take their turn at the board game. I use this with the game “Sorry” and it is actually a lot of fun.

Fourth Grade

Keep a positive attitude about math. This really goes for all grades, but as the content gets more challenging, you want to be sure that you don’t mumble things about how hard it is. You also don’t want to find yourself muttering things like, “What on Earth are they thinking teaching this stuff?” You might be thinking it, but the best route is to tell your child that you are not sure how to answer the question, but you would love to help them figure it out. The best thing you can do is to be honest with your child. If you absolutely cannot help your child, seek the help of someone else, email the teacher to let them know that the child will need assistance.

Something you want to do, is to continue to read the math problems out loud and then try to draw a picture when your child needs more support with it. The pictures you draw will often times help your child process the problem. Then move the picture into a math problem. If it is a multi-step problem, be sure to draw two pictures so they understand that this will take two steps or maybe three to solve.

Use math talk at your home. Talk about how many cups are in a gallon. A great time to do this is when you are going to host a gathering. If you are going to make a gallon of something, apply the number of 8 ounce cup portions for this, and you will help your child build that background knowledge so they are successful in their studies.

You can find out how many ounces it takes to make a pound of something. Or vice versa, you have a pound of something, how many 1/4 lb portions can you get out of it? How long is your room? Measure it! How high is the ceiling? Measure it! Your child will have great background knowledge to apply to other problems.

Really highlight math when you are cooking. I have seen this in the classroom, kids that have done cooking and baking at home will typically have a much better understanding of fractions than kids who do not. They also understand capacity (ounces, cups, gallons, etc) much better because they have worked with it.

When you are driving, consider talking about how far you have to go. Talk about what a mile looks like as you drive. Consider learning about the miles per hour or km per hour and how this can help you figure out how long it will take you to get to a destination. For example, your car is moving 60 miles per hour. You have to travel 180 miles. If you divide your distance by how far your car is moving, it will give you a very good estimation of how long it will take you to arrive. In this case, it is a 3 hour drive, provided you don’t have to slow down or stop.

Apply math to the games your family is attending. Talk about how many yards the player on the team has traveled. Use your math skills to determine how many points a player has scored. Talk about the quarters and halves that take place during games.

Music has a lot of math in it. If your child is learning a musical instrument, help them understand whole notes are worth 1 full count, half notes are worth 1/2 of a count, quarter notes are worth 1/4 of a count, and so on.

Use pencils when you are doing math. I know that many kids don’t want to erase. I can never figure this out. Mistakes are part of learning. A pencil will be your best tool when working with math. Pencils with solid lead and a good eraser will allow your child to not only write well, but by erasing, they can read their work when mistakes are made. My favorites are Ticonderoga. (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”)

Games are once again a fun way to practice those math skills. By fourth grade, kids should be able to play UNO, Connect 4, Checkers, Chess, Sorry, and Sequence. All of these games will support problem-solving and strategizing skills. And, it is really important to learn that we don’t always win. Being a good loser is also vital for success. (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”)

Fifth Grade

Use a pencil. I stated this for fourth graders, but I feel it applies to all levels of math. I know that you can do a lot of math with pens, but when a student makes a mistake, writing over it often times causes issues with readability. So, provide good quality pencils and a solid eraser. You will thank yourself and your kids may not say it, but they will appreciate it. Here is a link to some of my favorite pencils. (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”)

Many problems in this grade begin to include extra details that really are not necessary for children to solve the problem. Continue to read the problem aloud, and then support your child’s understanding of the problem. Cross of unneeded information. Draw pictures as needed. Write out the equations and then solve them. Be sure you are checking the answers by doing the inverse (or opposite) method to check it. What does that mean? If you added the problem, then subtract to check the work. If you multiplied, then divide to check.

Stay informed on the topics your child is learning in school. If you don’t understand the concept they are learning about, then educate yourself so you can be as supportive as possible. If your to child doesn’t understand it, you will be prepared to help them as they work through the information.

Don’t be afraid to consult experts in the field of study. Look for reputable videos on YouTube and use to use to build your understanding of the math concepts your child is practicing. Your child can also practice and build confidence with those skills.

Make sure your child has a strong understanding of place value. Work with numbers any chance you get. More importantly teach your child about money. Not only will this support their understanding of place value, but it will support their understanding of the decimal, tenths, and hundredths.

Set up a saving account. Your child may be getting money for birthdays or chores. You can help them understand the value and how to use money. They can learn how to keep a banking ledger prior to getting a checking account. Don’t dismiss this idea. Kids really do need to learn how to earn money and keep track of it. You don’t want to send your child off into the world without a knowledge of money. You will not regret helping them learn to earn, manage, and understand what money does and doesn’t do in a person’s life.

At this point, your child really does need to a have strong grasp of their math facts. All facts in addition and subtraction up to 100, or have great strategies for solving math facts with confidence. They need to know their multiplication and division facts through their 12’s. Why? When a child has quick recall we say they are fluent. With quick fluency, children don’t get lost in the math algorithms or steps in solving more complicated equations and math problems. You can continue to use flashcards or use an online website for practice. But, be sure you provide encouragement and practice for math fact fluency.

Teach your child how to take notes in math. It can be as simple as making drawings. Learning how to take notes of the important concepts. When a child writes down notes, they trigger pathways in their brain that help them cement concepts. It really does work. Try it!

Fifth grade is heavy in fractions, decimals, and mixed numbers. They learn a lot of new information. Be sure you are checking in frequently and supporting them as they practice these new skills.

Fifth graders learn about variables and how to solve them. If you don’t know what a variable is, be sure to do some of your own homework. They will also learn about the order of operations. I have a quick video you can look at on YouTube about this.

Fifth graders also learn more about area and perimeter. Apply these ideas at home when they come up. How much carpet should we get? That is an area problem. We need a new fence. That could be a perimeter problem. All of this helps to build that all important background knowledge.

Don’t let your child tell you they don’t have to do their homework. Maybe the teacher doesn’t correct it, but if your child hasn’t practiced the problems enough to be able to be independent, then you should do some problems as practice. This doesn’t mean they have to do all of them. But, be sure they can work independently. The goal is mastery. Your child may not be independent after one session, but your goal is to get to independence through practice. So do short practices to reach that goal.

Play games! Yes, I keep saying this, but it is so important. You can play Monopoly, The Game of Life, and begin to teach them card games like 4 Kings in a Corner. All of these games involve strategy, problem solving, and fun!

Sixth Grade

Stay positive. Read the other grade levels, I have expressed the importance of this. It really is important.

Pencil…if you have read the rest of this article, you know about that. So, I will move on.

Your child will be moving into graphing, using variables, solving equations, working on Algebra. Your child will be working with all facets of fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, percentages, and problem solving. They will use function tables as well. They will be using area, volume, and surface area.

Now you might be scratching your head. What else can you do to help support your child? You have done all of this work in previous grades. There really can’t be more, can there?

Look back through all of the suggestions, and keep applying those ideas.

Ask your child if there is something they are interested in learning about. Some kids really like money. Explore financial literacy. Your child should begin to learn the difference between wants and needs. They should learn about savings and checking accounts. It may be a good time to consider opening a checking account and helping them learn how to manage small amounts of money. Perhaps they can write checks for their lunch money. Teach them how to keep track of their spending. They can use an online app like mint, or they can simply use a spreadsheet to keep track. If your bank offers online banking, have them log in to that and learn how to use it. Teach your child how to reconcile their ledger.

If you are into building things, consider having a creating a plan. Have a fixed budget. Go shopping for the supplies. Use measurement and other skills as you create your project.

Some sixth graders will begin to babysit. Have your child determine their hourly rate and then use their bank accounts to keep track of their money. If they have something they really want to purchase, then have them work and save up for it. If they fall short of their goal, pitch in a few dollars and help them realize their dream. You are helping them learn to be confident and responsible for their money.

Use sources like to practice things they need to know, but they can also use it to learn things they didn’t know. This site has more than math on it, your child can learn reading, English, and writing skills as well.

Just as I stated in the fifth grade section, do homework. Do not ignore this. It is a way to do practice. If your child need support, find a way to provide it.

Play games! Yes, games are still important. Consider playing Canasta (a challenging card game), Cribbage, Mancala, or Battleship. (“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”)

My Final Thoughts

Growing up, I was not a confident math student. I was the person who would have really benefitted from these ideas. I had to work really hard to overcome a lot of issues I had with math. Sometimes we think because our children are good students, they must understand the math they are learning. That is not always the case.

A great way to check for understanding, is to have your child show you what they know. If you are also practicing the skills, you will know if they really understand it. If they don’t, and you either don’t have the time or the ability to provide help, seek assistance.

There are all kinds of qualified educators that are available and willing to help.

I know that many parents don’t want to pay for a service they feel their school should be taking care of during the 8 hour day your child spends at school. But, you have to remember that your child is also learning reading, writing, English, science, social studies, music, art, P.E., etc. So, they are only going to have a finite amount of time to learn the topics covered in school. Many schools will do a small group instructional time. This will eat into the whole lesson and your child may not be getting enough direct instructional time. If you notice your child is struggling, do not wait to get help. You are just compounding the problem. Be your child’s advocate. Do what you can with the resources you.

For more information about Tutoring with Sheryl go to

Happy learning and best wishes for a great learning experience for your child!

Published by Tutoring with Sheryl

I have 32 years of experience teaching in public schools in Nebraska. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincon. I hold a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Doane University. I have 2 Google for Education Certifications. I have been tutoring online for 1 year. I have worked with countless students of all ages to support their education. I also support teachers with planning and management in their classrooms.

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