# Winter Break Math Skill Builders

Nov 23, 2022That time of year is upon us! You can’t even finish eating all of the Halloween candy before feeling like the official countdown to Christmas has begun. In that time period between November 1st and January 3rd, students are out of school an average of 18 days as school districts close their doors for Veterans Day, Thanksgiving break, and Christmas/New Year’s break. The question that we get asked frequently regarding this is, “Should I try to get my student to do school work over holiday breaks?”

The answer to this question is highly dependent on the unique situation of each student and their needs. If your student currently has a failing grade or close to it, then of course we would definitely recommend asking their teacher for extra credit opportunities and guidance on what specific skills they need to work on and take advantage of the extra time to get in that practice. However, in general, our professional opinion is that students need the opportunities that holiday breaks provide throughout the school year to rest and recharge their brains.

With that being said, there is holiday shopping to do, family gatherings to attend, and road trips to take, and we see nothing wrong with utilizing that car time to get in some practice on math skills. But WHICH math skills would be beneficial for my student to work on you ask?? We’ve got that covered for you! Keep reading to get advice, tips and FREE downloads for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grades.

**3rd Grade - Multiplication and Division Facts: **If your 3rd grader hasn’t started multiplication already, you can bet it is coming any day now! Either way, there is no such thing as too much practice on those multiplication and division facts. There are TONS of apps, videos and flashcards to aid you along your journey of multiplication fact fluency. But some useful advice on what you can and should focus on: focus on the fact families that do not have an easy skip counting sequence or “trick.” As you help your 3rd grader work toward fact fluency, keep in mind there are “easier” facts and "harder" facts.

**Easier** - These multiplication facts tend to be easier to learn because they either have a rule, a familiar skip counting sequence or a trick.

- 0 facts: any number multiplied times zero, the answer is always zero
- 1 facts: any number multiplied by 1, the answer is the “other number” (meaning not 1 but the other number being multiplied)
- 2 facts: familiar skip counting sequence
- 5 facts: familiar skip counting sequence
- 9 facts: Famous “finger trick” makes this one easier
- 10 facts: familiar skip counting sequence
- 11 facts: when multiplying by 11, the answer is the “other number” written twice.

**Harder**- These multiplication facts tend to be harder to learn because there is no commonly used rule or trick and skip counting by these numbers is not as familiar.

- 3 facts
- 4 facts
- 6 facts
- 7 facts
- 8 facts
- 12 facts

If you take into consideration that within those HARDER facts to memorize exists *some* of the easier facts (such as within the 7 facts you also have 7x0, 7x1, 7x2, 7x5, 7x9, 7x10, 7x11), you can really narrow down the specific facts to focus on memorizing. So instead of providing you with a complete set of ALL the multiplication facts between 0 and 12, we are saving you time and have made you a set of all of those specific HARDER facts that do not have a “go to” strategy for solving: 3rd Grade Multiplication Practice Guide & Flash Cards.

**4th Grade - Factors and Multiples:** In 4th grade students are required to put a fraction in “simplest form” (what you may remember as simplifying or reducing a fraction) by finding common **factors** of the numerator and denominator and then dividing the numerator and denominator by their greatest common factor (GCF). This new skill can be challenging and seems overwhelming to most students. However, if students *know* and easily name the factors of a given number it makes this task significantly easier.

4th graders are also introduced to the skill of writing a pair of fractions with a common denominator by finding a common **multiple** between the two existing denominators. Just like with factors, finding **multiples **can seem like a complicated extra step *especially *given the fact that this skill is usually introduced closely after learning about factors and many students get the two confused. For instruction on how to list the factors and multiples of a given number check out this Math Tutorial Video and practice naming factors and multiples of numbers using the examples and practice sheets in our Free Guide to Learning Factors & Multiples.

**5th Grade- Factors and Multiples: **YES, same as 4th grade! This skill is important for both grades to be learning (4th grade) and reviewing/brushing up on (5th grade). It will make their life SO much easier when they start all the chapters on fractions that are likely coming soon after winter break. 5th graders enter into their chapters on fractions with the expectation that they have prior knowledge of factors and multiples from 4th grade (see above). Very little time if any is spent reviewing these skills because they are quickly moving on to adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing with fractions. These new skills require them to be able to **quickly** recall and use factors and multiples while performing these operations with fractions. *Many *5th grade teachers agree that students that have not developed a strong foundation of multiplication and division fact families, which *directly* ties into knowledge of factors and multiples, have a significantly harder time successfully performing operations with fractions. Yes, we know this seems redundant for our 4th and 5th graders, but that is JUST how valuable perfecting this skill is. For instruction on how to list the factors and multiples of a given number check out this Math Tutorial Video and practice naming factors and multiples of numbers using this Free Guide to Learning Factors & Multiples (with practice sheets!).

**6th Grade - Writing Algebraic Expressions and Equations: **6th graders will need to brush up on their mathematics vocabulary to prepare them for writing algebraic expressions and equations. When 6th graders are introduced to expressions and equations there is enough confusion over trying to understand what a variable (letter) is, and what it is doing in a math problem. You can give your student a head start on this difficult skill by reviewing the vocabulary words and phrases they are expected to already know, as well as prep them for what’s to come with an activity matching expressions and equations to the correct word form. Download the Expressions & Equations Study Guide for examples and extra practice.

So remember, we are not saying that you need to make time over holiday breaks to get this stuff done. BUT if you are *needing* something productive to occupy that road trip time or the “this house is so boring” syndrome, you’re all set!

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