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Explaining fifth grade Common Core math

With many states quickly approaching their deadlines for full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, school districts are working tirelessly to make sure their teachers have a clear understanding of the new academic expectations students will be required to meet.

Adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the Common Core State Standards are a set of K-12 academic requirements in mathematics and English/language arts that are designed to enhance student preparedness for college and the careers of the 21st century.

Although the Common Core State Standards are meant to ensure that students across the United States are receiving the same level of education, they are not nationally mandated, and teachers and local school districts are tasked with developing their own curricula aligned with the standards.

The Common Core State Standards emphasize depth over breadth, and in fifth grade math classrooms this means teachers will need to spend instructional time cultivating knowledge of new math concepts, promoting fluency in addition and subtraction, and helping students understand both why and how math procedures work.

One of the subject areas within mathematics that fifth grade teachers in Common Core-aligned states must address is geometry. Instruction will cover two main topic areas: classifying two-dimensional figures (i.e. shapes) based on their properties, and graphing points on a coordinate plane. By the end of the year, fifth graders should be able to create graphs that will help them solve real world mathematical problems.

Measurement and data
While the concepts of measurement and data may seem relatively straightforward, they actually encompass three distinct areas within the Common Core math requirements: understanding concepts of volume, representing and interpreting data, and converting measurement units to solve multi-step, real-world problems. Math teachers will also be asked to tie in the concept of volume with multiplication and addition.

Fifth grade is when students really take fractions head on, and by the end of the school year they will be expected to have the ability to solve word problems using equivalent fractions as a strategy for addition and subtraction. Educators will also be asked to build upon student knowledge of the multiplication of fractions as a means of dividing whole numbers.

Numbers and operations
In regard to base ten numerals, fifth graders will learn about the place value system and be expected to complete math operations with multi-digit whole numbers, as well as numbers with decimals to hundredths. In particular, students will master the knowledge of how these multiples of 10 relate to each other, and be able to explain patterns in decimal placement based upon powers of 10.

Operations and algebraic thinking
In fifth grade, math students will learn how to analyze patterns and relationships and write and interpret numerical expressions. This includes an explanation of the function of parentheses or brackets in a mathematical equations, and the ability to graph ordered pairs on a coordinate plane.

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