Third grade is an important math year. Your child will learn how to multiply and divide, essential skills that are the foundation for virtually all future learning with numbers. Much time will be spent making sure children understand the concepts of multiplication and division, and committing the 10 times tables and corresponding division facts to memory.
- Time to Memorize
The best way to begin teaching multiplication and division is with visual representation — for example, 3 groups of 2 blocks, 4 rows of 5 students, 6 cups with 3 chips each. This may seem obvious to you, but probably won’t be to your child. And it’s necessary for children to understand multiplication and division thoroughly before they attempt to do it.
- Divide and Conquer
Understanding the concept behind division can be even harder for kids. As with multiplication, division facts have to be committed to memory with the aid of worksheets, flash cards, songs, and rhymes. Learning to recognize fact families — groups of numbers such as 4, 3, and 12 that create multiplication and division facts in a certain order — can help a child’s facility with calculations. Teachers also share number tricks that work for multiplication as well as division, such as the fact that the sum of the digits in the answers to the 9 times table always equals 9.
Memorizing multiplication and division facts paves the way for the introduction of long division, where a two- or three-digit number is divided by a one-digit number. This requires children to remember several steps in a certain order: Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Check, and Bring Down. Teachers have a variety of acronyms to help students remember the steps, such as DMSCB, “Does McDonald's Sell CheeseBurgers?”
- Fractions and Decimals
Fractions are another challenging area for 8-year-olds to master. Still, with time and practice, they come to understand that 1/2 of a pizza is the same as 2/4 of a pizza, and they learn to add and subtract simple fractions in the same fraction family. Decimals are also introduced, along with the idea that fractions and decimals can represent the same concept — the part of a whole. This enables children to add, subtract, multiply, and divide money sums.
Geometry and measurement can also be challenging. Again, memorization is required for kids to learn to recognize a variety of complex shapes and angles. They also have to learn to tell time to the nearest minute, and to calculate elapsed time in minutes. For example, a problem might read: The bus comes at 8:34. If John wakes up at 7:15, how much time does he have to get ready? This requires good computation skills, facility with telling time, and number sense.
- Prepare to Be Tested
Nationwide standardized testing also begins in earnest in the 3rd grade. No Child Left Behind requires states to test students beginning in the 3rd grade in math and language arts. These exams, which vary by state, are designed to make sure schools are meeting curriculum standards at performance levels set by the states. The challenge is that the tests are usually administered in the early spring to give time for results to be returned to the schools before the school year ends. As a result, teachers must make sure they have at least touched on all the math topics that may appear on the test, even if they don’t have time to teach the topic fully until afterward.
In addition to multiple-choice questions, there’s likely to be one or more open-ended math questions, a new trend in testing designed to assess reasoning and problem-solving skills. Children have to show how they arrived at an answer, using words as well as numbers. To practice, a class might begin every day with “morning work,” where students see a math problem on the board when they arrive. After they have a chance to study it and write out their answers, they discuss their answers and, most important, the reasoning behind them.