6th grade math tips: Here's how to help your student

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

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

Review new material together

As their assignments become more complicated, you might start to feel that your child's math homework is outpacing your comfort level. Continue to review math materials with him before class and supervise their homework, regardless of your confidence in your own skills. Instead of explaining new concepts, have him explain them to you. This will help him process and retain the information. If you are both confused, read the material and do your best to think it through and discuss it together. Go to sites like Khan Academy, IXL or XtraMath for extra assistance.

Help your child learn how to study

Help your child learn how to study effectively for math tests. This means working through problems, not just reading through them or skimming the review sheet. In elementary school, knowing the mechanics may be enough for some students. In middle school, many problems now have multiple steps and are best learned through repetition. The more problems your child practices, the more they will internalize the various components. This increases speed and understanding so your child can be better prepared to adjust the steps when required.

Shop for bargains

Encourage your child to practice math by helping shop for bargains. Is a gallon of milk a better buy than a half gallon? What about a 16 ounce jar of peanut butter compared to the 12 ounce size? Have him divide the cost of bulk-packaged items by the number of single items to find the cost-per-item.

Review materials before class

Sixth grade is a time of transition to middle school, when the comfort of a single teacher and classroom is replaced by a variety of classes and teachers. Sixth grade math is usually taught by a subject teacher instead of by a general-education teacher, as it was in elementary school. You can help promote your child’s success in sixth grade math by helping him understand both the content and the learning process. Review materials with him before class and continue to take an active role in supervising their homework.

Break down complicated problems

Have your child discuss a problem that was easy for him and another that was difficult. Ask him to explain key features of the difficult problem to you. What did your child find difficult? What was some of important information in the problem? Ask him to jot down any part of the problem that your child still has questions about and ask him to share it with the teacher or a classmate the following day.

Encourage persistence

Encourage your child to be persistent whenever a problem seems difficult. This will help your child believe that everyone can learn math.

Highlight math in sports

Sports provide an 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 him to explore it through math.

Play games

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.

Develop a homework routine

Help your child develop a consistent homework routine. Make sure that your child not only reviews that was covered in school that day but also help him learn how to keep track of long-term assignments and plan ahead.

To find out what your sixth-grader will be learning in math class, check out our sixth 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; and Denise Walston, Director of Mathematics, Council of the Great City Schools, and align with the Common Core State Standards.