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Mathematics in Fourth Grade

What kids should learn in Math
In the fourth grade, mathematics continues to be something that is used, something children see as extending far beyond school. While children are expected to do basic computational functions such as adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying, in the best classrooms math consists of much more than worksheets filled with problems or drills on number facts. Children:

  • learn when to add and subtract, use a calculator, estimate, and arrange information on a graph.
  • begin to have an understanding of probability and how to judge it.
  • learn how relationships among numbers, patterns, or events can be made more understandable with mathematical formulations.
  • establish models for problem solving.
  • develop mental models by teaching children how to visualize problems and solutions.
  • develop personal theories by thinking about different ways to solve mathematical problems.

What you should expect from your fourth grader
You should expect to see your fourth grade child become a much better estimator than he or she was before. Further, your child will be able to see patterns in numbers more easily -- they will note in a sequence of 1, 2, 4, 8 that subsequent numbers will be 16, 32, 64 -- and will have some beginning understanding of probabilities: how likely is it that when flipping a coin, heads will come out 2 times more than tails, etc. The child should also be able to measure things with precision and to manage fractions fairly well -- although, because of their use of calculators, children are increasingly familiar with decimals.

Teachers often ask the children, "How can we solve this problem?" For example, the teacher might present the following problem: "If 10 balls cost $46.25, how much would 26 balls cost?" The emphasis would be less on finding the correct answer than on showing that there are multiple ways of approaching the problem.

The goal of mathematics in the fourth grade is to help children maintain a good sense of what numbers mean and to make them feel that math is as commonplace and accessible as any other subject in school. Mathematics is not a mystery that only a select few can master. It should be -- and in the best settings it is -- fully available to all.

Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 4th Grader by Vito Perrone, published Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.

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