5th grade math tips: Here's how to help your student

Here's how you can help your fifth-grader master math outside of the classroom.''
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By Aisha Labi

Hoping to help your fifth-grader with math skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Highlight real-world uses of math

As the math they’re learning becomes more complicated and less obviously connected with their everyday experience, some children start to develop math anxiety. It’s important to keep your child engaged with math and to help her understand the real-life applications of the concepts she’s learning in school. Coming up with a budget for back-to-school supplies or for a monthly allowance is one way for them to practice addition and subtraction. Asking them to help you with cooking or baking shows them how fractions work. Helping you calculate prices when you’re grocery shopping is also good practice.

Help prepare for math class

Help your child reduce stress over math by familiarizing their with the concepts they will be covering in class. Ask their teacher for a syllabus and refer to this to preview each evening the material that will be covered in the following day’s math class. Skim over these pages with them. No need to spend time working out the meaning of concepts or trying sample problems, although you can consult the glossary for definitions of unfamiliar words. Even this slight increase in familiarity with the terms that will come up the next day will help your child approach math with more confidence.

Read problems out loud

If your child is struggling with math problems, have them read each problem out loud slowly and carefully so your child can hear the problem and think about what is being asked. This helps them break down the problem and come up with problem-solving strategies.

Keep math positive

Speak positively about math and reward effort rather than grades or ability. Think about how important reading is and how we are told to model this behavior for our children. We need to place math in the same category. Don’t discount the importance of math by saying, “I’m not a math person, I was never good at math.” Help your child read books that incorporate math, such as "Millions of Cats" by Wanda Gag, or"OnBeyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey," by David Schwartz.

Consult online resources

Familiarize yourself with the range of online resources that can help your 5th grader practice and review the math concepts they are learning.

Practice calculations using decimals

Connect the work with decimals that your child is doing in class to the real world by encouraging their to shop for bargains. Have them divide the cost of bulk-packaged items by the number of single items to find the cost per item. So how much are you paying per roll of paper towel or per can of soda when you buy in bulk? Or ask them to calculate how much of a savings you’ll make per item with sale prices offering volume discounts.

Practice using fractions

Help your fifth grader familiarize themselves with fractions by asking their to scale recipes for your family. Have them start by halving or doubling a recipe. When they feel comfortable doing this, ask them to convert it by 11⁄2, allowing a recipe that is supposed to feed a family of four to work for a family of six.

Set up a bank account

Set up a bank account for your child. Before you do this, discuss with their the basic concepts of banking – interest, checking and saving accounts, credit and debit cards, etc. The experience will help get them excited about saving and increasing their money.

Highlight math in sports

Sports provide a fun and engaging way of exploring a host of mathematical concepts, starting with basic addition. Any hard-core baseball fan knows that the game can’t truly be appreciated without an understanding of some essential statistics, like a player’s batting average and runs batted in. If your child is passionate about a sport, encourage them to explore it through math.

Play games that use math

Play family games that help foster math skills. These include card games like Go Fish, which requires counting and sorting cards into sets, or board games like Monopoly.

To find out what your fifth-grader will be learning in math class, check out our fifth grade math skills page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Denise Walston, Director of Mathematics, Council of the Great City Schools; Nell Duke, Professor, University of Michigan; Leanna Baker, Retired Math Teacher; Bon Crowder, Math Teacher and Blogger, MathFour.com; and Robin Schwartz, VP, Association of Teachers of Math of NYC, and align with the Common Core State Standards.