# The Big Ones: THE Top Math Skill for Each Grade 3-6

May 31, 2023A parent recently asked me, “*What is the most important math skill my child should have mastered this past school year? Which one is going to cause the most problems next year if not mastered now?*” This question did get me thinking. Each school year your child learns countless new math skills. While I think they are, for the most part, *all* important, I will also admit that some are definitely more important than others.

I can’t answer this question truthfully without including word problems, which is a critical skill across **all **grade levels. You can read about the positive impact devoting time to learning how to interpret and solve word problems correctly can have on your child’s math proficiency in High Impact Math Skills for Summer Learning.

However, if I narrow my focus and think about each individual grade level (3rd - 6th), there are clear skills and concepts that stick out each year as pivotal for a student’s progress in math.

##### 3rd Grade: Multiplication *and* Division Facts

The level of success in almost everything in math after 3rd grade relies heavily on multiplication and division fact fluency. Fluency meaning how quickly and accurately a student can recall the answer. In 4th, 5th and 6th grade students will use this skill as they learn about factors and multiples and embark on mastering long division, multi-digit multiplication, multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals, order of operations, area, volume, converting units of measurement etc etc etc!! All of these concepts will not only be *new* to students, but they also present a challenge in that they all require knowing and completing *multiple steps* in order to arrive at a correct answer.

When students do not know their multiplication and division facts, they end up struggling on these higher-level skills because they either a) multiply or divide wrong within one of these problems or b) spend too much time trying to figure out an answer to a multiplication or division fact within just one-step, and then forget what step they are supposed to do next. Check out our free 3rd Grade Multiplication Practice Guide and Multiplication Game Printable to help your child build and maintain fluency over the summer.

##### 4th Grade: Long Division

Fourth grade introduces students to several new concepts that are crucial for future success, but there is one that almost embodies all of them in one: **Long Division. **Long division requires students to recall and apply other critical skills, (old and new) such as multiplication and division fact families, factors and multiples, and adding and subtracting multi-digit numbers. Moreover, long division is one of the first of many more complex skills students will encounter in math that requires them to learn and follow a specific sequence of different steps. While 4th grade is the first time students will see long division, it is not the last. Long division continues into 5th and 6th grades with dividing larger whole numbers and multi-digit decimals as well as using long division to convert improper fractions into mixed numbers. Looking even further ahead, long division is used again in Algebra to divide polynomial expressions. This long division tutorial video breaks down example problems your child can follow along with to refresh their skills.

##### 5th Grade: Order of Operations

Knowing and correctly applying the Order of Operations is hands down the one thing you want to make sure your 5th grader mastered in math before moving on to 6th grade. After 5th grade, the dynamics of math pivot away from spending a significant amount of time focusing on the pillars of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (because students should have mastered these at this point), and turn to a more algebraic focus of writing, evaluating, simplifying and solving expressions and equations. The Order of Operations is the gateway to this pivot, teaching students the correct order to solve algebraic expressions that contain multiple operations along with parenthesis and brackets. Take a look at this Order of Operations tutorial video to help your child remember the correct steps.

##### 6th Grade: Ratios and Proportions

In 6th grade, students build upon their foundational math skills and begin to delve into more complex mathematical concepts. While there are many important math skills taught in 6th grade, the one skill that stands out as particularly crucial is the understanding and application ratios and proportions.

Ratios are fairly easy to understand as they are simply a comparison between two quantities (e.g. what is the ratio of blue marbles to red marbles). A proportion is an equation of two equivalent ratios and has *many* uses that students will continue to apply over and over again in math such as finding an unknown quantity (e.g if you get 1 free cookie for every 6 cookies you buy, how many cookies would you have to buy to get 20 free?), converting units of measurement, finding a percentage of a whole, scaling objects up or down, and unit rates just to name a *few. *Additionally, word problems structured to be solved by setting up a proportion are probably *the most common *type of word problem seen in grades 6-8. This skill is covered in-depth in Word Problems Unlocked for 6th Grade, along with practice problems and cheat sheets for remembering the formulas.

If you can only do 1 thing this summer to help your child in math, we highly recommend revisiting the skill detailed that corresponds to the grade level your child just completed. We have resources available to help you along the way!

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