## Fifth Grade Math for Parents

**Overview**

Fifth grade in the Common Core is when students finish having arithmetic as a focus, though in later grades there will be plenty of opportunity to continue practicing these skill.

This year students will learn to add fractions. From their work in 3rd and 4th grade, students will have a firm grounding in the number line, in renaming fractions (e.g.

*2/3*is also

*4/6*) and in adding fractions with the same denominator (

*3/8+2/8=5/8*). All of this will make addition of fractions a process that makes sense rather than something to remember using tricks which use pictures of X’s or butterfly wings.

This type of reasoning also helps to

*apply*fraction arithmetic correctly. Many of us remember that to multiply 2/

*3×3/5.*you “multiply across,” but struggle to know if one

*should*multiply in a real world context. A key is that 2/

*3×4/5.*is what you get when you split 4/

*5*of something into three equal pieces and take two of those. Students will use pictures to reason about problems, as many good problem-solvers often do. From these they will be able to know whether to multiply or divide, and have a sense for what a reasonable answer should be.

Students will use similar reasoning about whole numbers and decimals—using sketches, examples, and properties which have been carefully developed, so these arithmetic skills will provide a strong base for algebra.

**General parent tips for supporting 5th grade math**

- It is likely that your child is learning in a way you didn’t so you can’t just figure out in a minute what’s going on. That presents a great opportunity: ask your child to explain some math to you! Communicating reasoning is a skill we want children to have, and it rarely happens enough.

- Kids at this point will likely have a strong sense of how “good” they are at math, usually based on how quickly they can calculate. Challenge this! Many of the best mathematicians are slow at calculation, but take time to truly understand a problem. Understanding will eventually be a struggle for everyone in some math class. Just as a musician doesn’t expect to play every new piece well, a math learner won’t understand every concept right away but can progress until they get there.

- Some students may be ready to use variables to more deeply reflect on the arithmetic they learn. If they see exactly why three fourths and two fourths makes five fourths (on the number line, especially), and similarly nine fourths and two fourths makes eleven fourths and so on, then they could also say that
*n*fourths and two fourths makes*n*+ 2 fourths.

From Bevans and Sinha, University of Oregon Department of Mathematics, October 2014