How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

When executives at the Australian software company Atlassian came up with the concept of a FedEx Day, during which employees would be given free rein to invent and deliver new products, they probably didn’t envision the impact it would have on a sixth grade classroom in suburban Chicago.

But Josh Stumpenhorst did. In 2011, he launched a classroom version of FedEx Day as a way to foster student engagement. More than 250 sixth graders tackled self-selected projects that ranged from constructing a model of the Eiffel Tower and performing an original comedy act to researching and presenting information about Holocaust camps.

Instead of goofing around as 11-year-olds are wont to do, the students set rigorous goals for themselves and relied on their teacher as a resource only after attempting to solve their own problems.

In many ways, it’s a concept parents can apply as they help their children succeed in sixth grade. When you advocate for your child’s interests, empower him to envision solutions, and act as a sounding board, you’re fostering positive habits that will reach far beyond middle school.

5: Validate Ideas

Don’t be surprised if your once-enthralled-with-school student suddenly puts the brakes on his enthusiasm for the classroom. The jump to middle school is rife with new stressors: changing classrooms, remembering locker combinations, handling complex homework assignments and managing peer relationships.

Fortunately, it’s also full of new discoveries. For example, if your sixth grader’s American history assignments prompt a fondness for Civil War, you should jump on the bandwagon, too. Whether this means watching Confederates and Yankees battle it out on DVD rentals at home or taking an impromptu family trip to historic forts, validating your child’s newfound interest or idea has a big pay-off. Not only will he get plugged-in to the learning process, but you’ll boost his self-esteem, too.

4: Don’t Put It on Cruise Control

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

You’re well into the sixth grade school year, and things are going well. Your child’s staying out of trouble, seems to be navigating his new class schedule and doesn’t need you to closely monitor his homework progress. Although you may be tempted to pat yourself on the back and put your parenting on cruise control, don’t give in just yet.

Sixth graders operate with one foot in adulthood and one firmly entrenched in toddlerland — and this is developmentally right on track. So, if your child approaches school (and life in general) with an eerily mature mentality and then seems to regress into tears overnight, take heart: He’s just as confused as you are.

Not only is he experiencing a rush of hormones and a spate of new experiences, but these changes are converging on a rapidly growing brain. Not since he was an infant-turned-toddler has your child’s brain bloomed with such voracity [source: Ghezzi].

3: Offer Choices, Enforce Limits

There’s no better time to cling to the adage “choose your battles wisely” than during the transition from childhood to adolescence. If your sixth grader wants to wear athletic shorts to school in the winter or cultivate an anti-Bieber hairstyle, let him.

Offering opportunities to become autonomous will help your sixth grader become independent. It will also allow him to experience the consequences of his choices, both negative and positive, while still benefitting from a parental safety net. It will be easier (for everyone) if he can learn from his mistakes while riding a bicycle instead of a driving a car.

You can help your sixth grader by enforcing limits, too. The yin to autonomy’s yang, these guidelines build confidence and a sense of security that comes with clear expectations [source: Plugged in Parents].

2: Encourage Involvement

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

It’s no secret that team sports benefit sixth graders. Not only will your child master new skills, but he’ll also become plugged into a positive peer group. Emerging research even contends that when children invest a lot of time in sports, they learn strategic thinking methods that spill over into other areas of life [source: Price-Mitchell].

Team sports aren’t limited to the basketball court or football field, though. The key is to get your student get involved, whatever the pursuit. You can help by conducting some behind-the-scenes research and steering your student in the right direction. Does your sixth grader’s school have a chess team, book club or science competition? If not, perhaps you could help start a school organization that reflects your child’s interests, such as paleontology.

1: Be a Shock Absorber

You once navigated the transition from elementary to middle school, and now’s the time to pass on your wisdom to your child. We’re not suggesting your regale them with stories of “when I was your age . ” You could, however, deflect some of the stressors that await your student by helping him get organized.

For a sixth grader, organization is more than simply knowing where the books and pencils lie. It means helping him develop a system that will form the foundation for high school and college. Help your student get in the habit of tracking assignments on a weekly assignment sheet, whether in paper or electronic form. As your student checks this sheet daily, it will remind him which supplies he needs for class. It will also prompt him to plan ahead and complete assignments due later in the week [source: Peters].

By helping your student learn the ropes, you’ll be acting as a shock absorber for all the changes that lie ahead — and there’s no better way to help your sixth grader succeed.

Lots More Information

Author’s Note: 5 Ways You Can Help Your Child Succeed in Sixth Grade

As the parent of a son who recently finished sixth grade and two daughters who will eventually reach that milestone, I researched these tips like I was studying for a graduate exam. I was relieved to discover that I’d inadvertently set my son up for success by encouraging the exploration of his particular interests (we either have a software engineer or a wheat farmer on our hands). I was glad to find a number of additional steps I can take to help my girls prepare for sixth grade someday. You can bet they’ll be mastering the art of organization. Is preschool too early to start?

This article was co-authored by Daron Cam. Daron Cam is an Academic Tutor and the Founder of Bay Area Tutors, Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area-based tutoring service that provides tutoring in mathematics, science, and overall academic confidence building. Daron has over eight years of teaching math in classrooms and over nine years of one-on-one tutoring experience. He teaches all levels of math including calculus, pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, and SAT/ACT math prep. Daron holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a math teaching credential from St. Mary’s College.

This article has been viewed 13,060 times.

Math can be a challenging subject to master. Help your sixth grader succeed in math by being proactive. Know what topics your sixth grader will be mastering, and talk with their teacher on a regular basis about how your child is doing in class. If your child is having extra difficulty, try hiring a tutor. Don’t forget that you can also help your sixth grader succeed in math by making math fun.

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

Daron Cam
Academic Tutor Expert Interview. 29 May 2020. By knowing what your 6th grader will be learning in math class, you will be able to help your 6th grader get high grades on their homework and tests. Sixth graders learn a variety of math skills. Your sixth grader will learn how to:

  • Multiply and divide fractions.
  • Understand ratios and rates, and solve word problems relating to ratios and rates.
  • Understand the ordering and absolute value of positive and negative numbers, as well as understand that positive and negative numbers are used to describe quantities having opposite directions and values.
  • Solve simple equations with variables.
  • Write equations to solve word problems, as well as to describe relationships between quantities.
  • Reason about relationships between shapes to determine surface area, area, and volume.

How can I help my child in 6th grade math?

If your child is having extra difficulty, try hiring a tutor. Don’t forget that you can also help your sixth grader succeed in math by making math fun….Know what your 6th grader will be learning.Multiply and divide fractions.Understand ratios and rates, and solve word problems relating to ratios and rates.

What math should a 6th grader know?

What Math Should a 6th Grader Know. The major math strands for a sixth grade curriculum are number sense and operations, algebra, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, and functions and probability. While these math strands might surprise you, they cover the basics of what a sixth grader should learn in math.

How can I improve my maths in middle school?

Here are Brodkey’s top ten tips for performing well in math.Do all of the homework. Fight not to miss class. Find a friend to be your study partner. Establish a good relationship with the teacher. Analyze and understand every mistake. Get help fast. Don’t swallow your questions. Basic skills are essential.

What is the easiest math question?

The Collatz conjecture is one of the most famous unsolved mathematical problems, because it’s so simple, you can explain it to a primary-school-aged kid, and they’ll probably be intrigued enough to try and find the answer for themselves. So here’s how it goes: pick a number, any number. If it’s even, divide it by 2.


How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

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Your blueprint to planning Grades 6-8 math lessons that lead to achievement for all learners

When it comes to planning mathematics lessons, do you sometimes feel burdened? Have you ever scrambled for an activity to engage your students that aligns with your state standards? Do you ever look at a recommended mathematics lesson plan and think, “This will never work for my students”?

The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook: Your Blueprint for Building Cohesive Lessons, Grades 6–8 walks you step by step through the process of planning focused, research-based mathematics lessons that enhance the coherence, rigor, and purpose of state standards and address the unique learning needs of your individual students. This resource deepens the daily lesson-planning process for middle school teachers and offers practical guidance for merging routines, resources, and effective teaching techniques into an individualized and manageable set of lesson plans.

The effective planning process helps you

  • Identify learning intentions and connect goals to success criteria
  • Select resources and worthwhile tasks that make the best use of instructional materials
  • Structure lessons differently for traditional and block middle school schedules
  • Anticipate student misconceptions and evaluate understanding using a variety of formative assessment techniques
  • Facilitate questioning, encourage productive struggle, and close lessons with reflection techniques

This author team of seasoned mathematics educators make lesson planning practical and doable with a useful lesson-planning template and real-life examples from Grades 6–8 classrooms. Chapter by chapter, the decision-making strategies empower teachers to plan mathematics lessons strategically, to teach with intention and confidence, and to build purposeful, rigorous, coherent lessons that lead to mathematics achievement for all learners.

This pandemic has left teachers and kids more stressed out and overwhelmed than ever, while parents stand by helplessly having lost the knowledge to help their kids prepare for success in high school and college.

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

I’m a semi-retired school teacher and football coach, and I want to help your kid.
Tackle Math.

My wife IS an adventure. She has grown a huge online business and absolutely loves to travel.

That’s why I made the career change from programmer to become a School Teacher, so I could spend summers with her and our kids — to make memories.

I found that I loved teaching. I looked forward to seeing the kids every day and watching their math anxiety lessen and their confidence grow. The parents were great. My co-workers were great. I loved my profession.

After over a decade, however, I got worn down from the politics and micro-managing by those in charge and decided that I needed to take a break for my health. I would “semi-retire” so I could focus on supporting my wife in her business and we’d travel and spend time with our now grown kids.

Then COVID happened and my wife and I found ourselves having the same conversation.

“Thank God our kids aren’t in school with all this craziness. The teachers are overworked. How are the kids who plan to go to college supposed to succeed? They can’t get help from their teachers. Most of their parents can’t help. What are they going to do when they get stuck?”

And that is when the idea for Tackle Math was formed. It’s designed to help your 6-10th grade student or Algebra 1 or 2 or even Physics student get unstuck.

Here’s How I Can Help Your Kid Stay Unstuck and Build Confidence in Their Math Skills:

Quick “Get Unstuck” Help

In my experience, many math frustrations can be answered with a quick question or reminder that gets your student back on track.

I use a very powerful tool to accomplish this (and I used it in the classroom for years). The Remind app was created specifically for teachers to communicate with students and parents.

You will each have access to me through the app. It’s as easy to use as texting.

Your student can take a photo of the problem they’re working on and I’ll respond with help on how to start (or corrections if the student is headed in the wrong direction).

My goal is to get your kid unstuck. If they aren’t understanding the concept I might record a video demonstrating a similar problem and send it right away so they have an example to work from.

Your student can also have me check a problem to see if they’ve done it correctly. Just take a pic of the problem and send it over.

I’ve used this app with thousands of students and parents over the years. It’s a great tool and safe and easy to use.

Open Office Hours for Deeper Questions / Explanations

I am hosting open office hours on Zoom every morning throughout the week. Students can come in and ask questions anytime during those hours or just say “hi”.

Unlike your child’s teacher, I am not working with a hundred or more kids. I will have plenty of time to assist each child.

If they didn’t understand their teacher’s lesson, they can ask me to re-teach the concept until they do understand it.

I have my iPad so I can demonstrate on the white board how to work the problems until your student is confident in his or her abilities.

I also believe the concept of learning through teaching, so if your child wants to explain the problem to me and HOW / WHY they did it that way, I’m happy to listen and give feedback or a virtual high-five.

Stress and anxiety over math can prevent kids (and adults) from doing their best. If kids are frustrated, pause and take a deep breath. When they’re calm, return to the math.

Some kids need to hear a math concept explained a few times before they get it. Try to use a new or different example each time. If you struggle with math, see if an older child or another adult can do the explaining.

When kids are asked to do math problems, there’s typically an example of a similar problem that’s been solved. Make sure kids have this example in front of them so they can follow it.

When kids struggle with a math problem, it can help to use physical objects to show the math. Grab buttons or beads to do math operations like addition and subtraction, or even multiplication.

Kids may stumble on word problems if reading is a challenge. Try writing out a word problem in the form of numbers and symbols. That can make it easier to solve.

This article is part of

Take N.O.T.E.

A simple, step-by-step tool to help you figure out if the struggles you’re seeing might be signs of a learning and thinking difference

If you see a child struggling with math, you might wonder why, and whether it’s something to be concerned about. Why is math so hard for some kids?

It’s not uncommon for kids to have trouble with math. Math difficulties can show up at different ages and in lots of ways. And it’s a myth that girls struggle more with math than boys do.

Some challenges are clearer, like trouble adding, subtracting, multiplying, or doing long division. Others are less noticeable and may not even seem directly related to math. For example, some kids have trouble telling time or left from right.

When kids struggle with math, it doesn’t mean they’re not smart or not trying hard enough. In fact, kids who have trouble with math are often trying their best.

Some kids just need more time and practice to learn math skills, or better instruction. Others need additional support to get there. The type of support kids need often depends on what’s causing the challenge.

Dive deeper

Kids who struggle with math may have trouble with very simple concepts, like “more” vs. “less” and “bigger” vs. “smaller.” They may not understand amounts or the order of things, such as “first,” “second,” or “third.”

The ability to understand basic concepts like these is known as number sense . When kids have poor number sense, it’s harder to learn math.

As kids move through school, more complex math can become a challenge. This includes concepts like time, distance, measurements, money, and math symbols. Find out what math skills kids typically have at different ages .

Some kids struggle with math because of a learning difference called dyscalculia. Dyscalculia isn’t as well-known as other learning and thinking differences, like dyslexia. But experts believe it’s just as common.

There are lots of tools and strategies to help kids with dyscalculia thrive. Learn more about dyscalculia signs and how to help .

When kids struggle with math, you may see certain behaviors. Kids may avoid doing math homework or get upset when they need to do it. They might cry before math tests and refuse to go to school. This may be related to their struggles.

On the other hand, sometimes even when kids understand math, they may still feel anxious about doing it. Some people call this math anxiety. Kids get so stressed out about math that it gets in the way of learning math. It can make it seem like they’re struggling with math, even if they aren’t.

No matter what’s causing a child’s trouble with math, there are ways to help.

Take notes on what you’re seeing and look for patterns. It’s helpful for families, educators, and even health care providers to talk together about what’s happening. Parents and caregivers can use these conversation starters with teachers .

Looking for specific ways to help kids build math skills?

Educators: Try evidence-based math strategies, like using manipulatives and number representations .

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About the Author

About the Author

Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.

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Daniel Ansari, PhD is a professor in developmental cognitive neuroscience at Western University, Canada.

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Share Understanding why kids struggle with math

“Determination, effort, and practice are rewarded with success.” Mary Lydon Simonsen

Did you lose two weeks this summer watching Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin, and Michael Phelps rack up Olympics medals? When Oscars night comes around, do you drop everything in favor of gazing at gowns and gawking at speeches?

As entertaining as these events are, they have one thing in common: the actors and athletes involved have taken risks, made substantial investments, and put in tens of thousands of hours of training, rehearsal, and conditioning. With or without a medal or gold statuette, their drive brought them to compete at the top of their sport or craft.

That brings us to talk about math. Gold medal or no, you want your child to succeed. But academic achievement isn’t something that you pluck off of a tree. It takes sustained and consistent time, effort, and practice. That’s why our StraightAce app offers quizzes that work your 6 th -, 7 th -, or 8 th -grader toward gradual—but certain—comprehension and proficiency. How can you play the part of that Olympic parent—without taking drastic measures? Easy. Follow her work on the StraightAce dashboard, communicate with her through the StraightAce messaging tool, and give her active encouragement—from a respectful, self-monitoring distance. As she works her way to gold, silver, and bronze stars, you can celebrate her progress in real time—and address any setbacks like the great parent you are.

“There are no mistakes or failures, only lessons.” Denis Waitly

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone experiences failure. No one is immune because no one is perfect. But people can take these experiences and work them to their advantage. If mistakes and failures yield lessons, then they are accomplishments.

It is very appropriate that the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” first appeared in an 1840 teacher’s manual. The lesson applies to teachers and students. Students today are under a lot more pressure than over a century and a half ago, and their studies are a lot more intense. You can help them take some of the pressure off by assuring them that even when they make mistakes, they are still learning.

The StraightAce app has the same philosophy. By presenting quizzes in an entertaining and virtual format, StraightAce makes 6 th , 7 th , and 8 th grade-level math exercises fun and exploratory. Kids practice on a smartphone or tablet, and you monitor their progress with the dashboard. If a middle-schooler has difficulty with a particular problem, that question will repeat until he gets it right. Then he can earn his star and move onto the next level of equations. Even if he gets the practice wrong on the first round, StraightAce presents challenges in a way that encourage a student until he understands. His initial mistakes will ultimately translate into math learning and success. See here how the StraightAce app can revolutionize the way your child studies math.

Have you witnessed your kids fail at something, and then helped turned them into a lesson? Share with us how you have taken these social or academic frustrations and made them a learning experience for you both.

Think about the everyday tasks that require math: Buying groceries, cooking with recipes, balancing budgets, paying bills, mapping trips, and tipping your waiter or waitress. We use math so often, we don’t even think about it.

Naturally, we want our children to excel in math too, and the middle-school years (grades 6, 7, and 8) are critical to building this strong foundation, so they can score well on their SATs and get into a great college.

Most SAT math questions are derived from middle-school math subjects. More than 50% of the problems involve ratio and proportion, complex numbers, counting, matrices, and sequences, along with algebra expressions, equations, inequalities, and properties of functions (linear, polynomial, rational, exponential). Even in college, students’ first courses tackle math concepts covered in middle school.

To help your child succeed on those tests, spark their interest in algebra and middle-school math now, so they enjoy and feel confident with numbers later. This tech-savvy generation is already adept at using iPads, video games and smartphones – the perfect tools to foster an enjoyment of learning. After all, how often has your child grabbed your phone or tablet looking for something fun to play?

That’s why we created StraightAce, a math improvement toolkit dedicated to inspiring 6 th , 7 th , and 8 th graders to practice and solve math problems in a fun, rewarding, and interactive way. The StraightAce app provides bite-sized math lessons and tracks scores. StraightAce Link shows parents their child’s efforts, progress, and problem areas at a glance. Sign up here.

Have you found a new way to motivate your child’s learning? Tell us about it here. In this blog, we’ll share tips on how to make learning fun!

Guest Post
Katie DeGroot

Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

I can’t believe my child will be in Jr. High next year! How many times have you heard this? Or are you saying this about your own child? Jr. High can be an exciting new adventure, but it can also hold some confusing and stressful situations. These stressful situations are known all too well in the Common Core Math arena. What can we as parents do to provide support for our sixth-grader as he or she enters the turbulent Jr. High years?

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

As one looks at children in sixth and seventh grade , you can view it as a transitional time when kids are leaving their childhood and looking ahead to high school. Their responsibilities are changing, their bodies are changing, their lives are changing and keeping their math homework in the correct folder just isn’t a top priority.

At this age, particularly for boys, they face discernable challenges with motivation and organization. This behavior is very typical of adolescence and does not mean something is “wrong.” Look at it as they are asserting their uniqueness. Your role is just directing some of that uniqueness into passion that will drive some of their behavior into more responsible actions in all parts of their life.

Another shift we see in kids this age is the need for children to gain approval from their peers and friends rather than the adults in their lives. We see that they tend to be more motivated to do well in school and other activities to gain favor from their peers, instead of teachers or parents. Girls who have always been amazing at math or science may get the message that it’s cooler to act dumb or silly in class than to be the student who always has the correct answer. Unfortunately, this tends to play into society’s struggle in general as we see decreases in the number of girls who follow career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). They also show decreases in math and science scores even though they statistically outperform boys on all academic levels in the classroom. In these cases, boys lead on standardized tests in these subjects. Performance based scores seem to be somewhat environmental.

One of the biggest factors of well-adjusted teenagers is a parent who understands the balance of parental support, clear limits and allows failure.

Actions Have Consequences

Sometimes students in these grades spend a great deal of energy convincing their parents to go away, but in reality, they need clear limits and follow through. Meaningful consequences that follow certain unacceptable behaviors is a key component in addressing your child’s new found pattern of pushing the limits. It may sound like a tired old song, but parents need to make good on their threats of punishment. If we don’t follow through on consequences then kids find out that we don’t really mean what we say and the credibility that we still had will diminish quickly.

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

Here are some real world questions and responses that can help in those frustrating moments with your pre-teen.

Avoid hovering

If you are unclear on how much to hover during homework time, especially with Common Core Math, let the first quarter or term go by without intervening unless your student asks for help. After you get that initial grade feedback from the school, adjust your plan accordingly. If his or her grades in math are awful, perhaps you could say, “I need to see your math homework every single night before you put it back in your backpack.”

Avoid treating them like an elementary student

Your child is searching for meaning in his or her life. They start to question you about their math homework saying things like, “why do I have to do this?” and we may be tempted to say, “Because you’ll need to know this later in the real world.” Although this answer is true, your child may need stronger motivation. If they don’t respond well to consequences, try a softer touch.

However, sometimes the only way we can get through to kids is with this type of response, “Because if you don’t learn it and your grade drops on your mid-term report, you won’t be able to go with your friends every Saturday night for a month.” Or, if this will just escalate the issue, try this response instead, “What are our goals for the next month to improve your math grade, because you have way more potential than your grade is reflecting.” You know your child best and what works for their specific situation. Find the responses that directly hit their immediate, self-involved place in their mind.

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

Avoid walking away when they need to talk

One minute you’re talking to your child about a current event on the news and they are acting like a miniature adult, the next, they are stomping off and throwing a tantrum. What to do? Always be available to be a listening ear and ask questions. There will be many times that you may not want to hear their complaining or social woes, but it will be beneficial for both of you to sit and listen. If your child knows that you are someone who is safe and loves them unconditionally they will remember this when something more serious is happening in their life. Confiding in you will be a positive option instead of a dreaded one.

Lots to navigate with your child in regards to Common Core , and common core math and other educational subjects, which mixes in the social aspects the student is dealing with as they grow older. Be confident as well as understanding when presented with school or homework challenges.

How to help your sixth grader succeed in math

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs