Math for fourth graders includes the curriculum focal points
recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
and uses the connections to the focal point to achieve an emphasis
on real world problem solving. The math strands covered are number
sense and operations, algebra, geometry and spatial sense, measurement
and data analysis and probability. The goal in fourth grade is
to have the students make the leap from arithmetic to solving
problems with real world implications by using the skills they
have acquired in their math lessons.
Grade 4 students should increase their place value knowledge
of numbers to the millions and know their decimals to two decimal
places. They should be able to compare and arrange from smallest
to largest or vice versa. As the numbers become larger, the concept
of rounding becomes more valuable. Students are taught rounding
for estimation purposes which they will use their whole lives;
one example would involve a trip to the grocery store with a limited
amount of cash. Fourth graders may still use manipulatives to
further their understanding of math concepts, especially as they
expand their knowledge to include the base 5 system or base 8.
They also work on expanded notation, writing and interpreting
the expanded forms of numbers.
The math rules the student has learned to this point are reiterated and students
are expected to know them by rote and understand them thoroughly.
The numbers used in fourth grade multiplication, division, addition
and subtraction are large, and doing those computations are easier
if the basics like the multiplication tables and properties of
"0" and "1" are automatic thoughts and not calculations. Word
problems become more complex; adding operations and using more
advanced language and terminology.
Working with fractions and decimals will help students improve
their number sense. Comparing fractions to each other and to decimals
and whole numbers is facilitated by the use of diagrams, number
lines and manipulatives. The use of fractions and decimals introduces
the numbers between whole numbers. The monetary system is used
as an excellent way to study decimal places to the hundredths.
Negative numbers are introduced in some fourth grade math classes.
Geometry and measurement work together to bring math alive for
the fourth grader. Students study angles, lines, curves, figures
and shapes to help them understand the world around them. Through
geometry, they learn that math is more than figuring out answers
to addition problems or division. They learn the area of their
yard and how long it might take them to cut it with a lawnmower.
They can then decide whether to charge by the lawn or by the hour
when they start their own business in the next few years. The
fourth graders' vocabularies increase with more advanced geometry.
The students learn what faces and edges of polygons are and what
congruency and symmetry mean and they learn how to construct polygons
and then measure the area and perimeter. They learn about tessellations
and the rotations and reflections found within.
Coordinate graphs or grids are used to locate and plot ordered
pairs of whole numbers. This is a further introduction into algebra.
These graphs also develop map reading skills and help with understanding
other navigational systems, such as GPS.
Measurement skills are honed, students learn what tool is appropriate
for what is being measured and when asked to measure an everyday
object know whether to pick up a ruler or a yardstick. Students
learn the freezing point in Celsius and Fahrenheit and the boiling
point, too. They learn to convert larger measures to smaller,
turning yards to inches.
All of these new and expanded skills work together to allow a
fourth grader to interpret and display data and use statistics
and probabilities to solve real world problems. They have started
to move from limiting themselves to the classroom to seeing broader
uses for what they have learned.