Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fourth grade math: There IS an order to things

Fourth grade Math: There IS an order to things

I heard a middle school math teacher say one time that the most important skill elementary school students could learn was fractions. She said that if students came to her with a basic understanding of addition and subtraction of fractions, working with mixed fractions, and equivalent fractions then her life was easier, and the children were well on their way to being able to do algebra and geometry. I just thought it was a personal opinion of that teacher until my own child was in fourth grade. My daughter talked me into doing the geometry chapter before the fraction and algebra chapters in her math curriculum. I wondered why she was struggling so hard then I realized that I was having to spend extra time on each new set of problems explaining, how to do the algebra part of the problem, or the fraction part of the problem. We tried backing up to the algebra chapter, and realized a few assignments in that we needed more information on fractions. We backed up to the fraction chapter, and it was pretty easy since we had already seen fractions in the algebra and geometry chapters. Maybe there is some truth to the middle school math teacher’s wish for students well versed in fractions. Once we got the basics of fractions learned, the rest of the math went so much easier. I know there are many math curricula out there, and they may not all do math topics in the same order, but considering how important fractions are to math, it might not be a bad idea to make sure that your fourth grader is getting a good foundation in fractions.