Building Math Skills

Grade 4
Tips for Parents

  • Engage in estimations with your child. Ask, "How far do you think it is from here to the corner? The mall? School?" "How tall do you think that tree is?" When you go shopping, say, "I can only spend $25, so you try to estimate when we are close to the limit." When traveling by car, see who can make the closest estimate of 1 mile, then 5 miles; use the odometer to check.

  • Make up story problems around math facts such as 12+12-6x1/2. For example, 12 elephants were joined by 12 zebras, but 3 elephants and 3 zebras decided to go off on their own to take a nap. How many were then left? But because there wasn't enough grass to eat, half of them went to another part of the savanna. Now how many were left? It doesn't matter how silly the stories become.

  • Many games will reveal your child's knowledge of numbers as well as of words and directions. Play tic-tac-toe, dots, checkers, concentration, hangman, Scrabble, and increasingly complex card games such as hearts, rummy, cribbage. Keep playing games such as chess and Monopoly, which involve problem solving and mathematics.

  • Use a mileage chart as a prop, ask, "Is it farther from Seattle to Washington, DC, or from New York to San Francisco?"

  • With a map of the United States, ask, "What is the shortest route from Boston to Grand Forks, North Dakota?" Or have your child trace routes to the homes of relatives and friends around the country -- or the world.

  • While cooking or baking, ask your child to read the recipe and measure what quantities are needed. This is a good way to see your child put math to use, and both of you enjoy the companionship.

  • Fractions are an increasing part of the math curriculum in the fourth grade. Ask your child to explain, with examples, with examples, such fractions as 3/8, 5/12, and 7/16. Make a graph of such measurements.

  • Ask your child to divide 60, 80, and 90 by 4, 5, and 6.

  • Work on number families together. For example, you could ask for combinations that relate to the numbers 4, 5, and 9: 4+5=9, 9-5=4, 9-4=5. Your child might ask you to do 5, 6, and 11: 5+6=11, 11-6=5, 11-5=6.

  • With a stopwatch, see how quickly your child can run 50 yards. Together, record and graph the times over several months. There is an almost limitless number of activities of this kind. You can also move into calculations such as, "How fast did you go per second in feet? In yards? Or, "If you continued to run at the same speed, how long would it take you to run 100 yards? Or 400 yards? How about 600 yards?" Such activities provide a useful link between mathematical computations and physical experience.

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

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