How Is My Third Grader Doing In School?

  • Buy a stopwatch. Young children, especially third graders, adore stopwatches. Your child will spend endless hours, minutes, and seconds recording everything from how long it takes his brother to brush his teeth to how long it takes you to whistle "Yankee Doodle." Needless to say, this is a great way for him to grow in his understanding of elapsed time. If you're looking for a future gift, you might want to keep an eye out for Stop! The Watch: A Book of Everyday, Ordinary Olympics (Klutz Press), which comes with a stopwatch.
  • Include time in your response to your third grader's requests. It might seem odd to you both at first to say, "You can have a snack at 3:13," or "Yes, let's go to the library at 4:57," but it sure will help him to tell time to the minute! 
  • Help your child apply his growing knowledge of area and perimeter to new concepts. Suggest he trace his hand on a sheet of paper. Ask him which would take more beans: the area or the perimeter of his hand. Remind him that the area is the space inside his tracing, the perimeter is the line around his hand. After he has made an estimate, give him a few handfuls of dried beans and have him measure. 
    • Then ask if these measurements are exact. Help him to see that they are not because (1) the beans are not all the same size, (2) some white space still surrounds the beans, and (3) the line of his hand might be different each time it is traced. Nevertheless, this inexact measurement gives us the information we need: Which is larger, the area or the perimeter?

    • When introducing fractions, start with your own family. At the dinner table, ask questions: How many people like spinach? How many like milk? How many went to school today? How many will help with the dishes? Have your third grader (and other eager participants) answer in fractions. For instance, if there are four people in your family, the answer to how many people like spinach might be 2/4.

    Try to incorporate the language of fractions Into your normal speaking as often as possible. Discuss your day in. fractions: "I spent two thirds of my day at work. Boy, it's good to be spending my last third at home." At meal time, divide food into equal portions and tell the fraction of the portion as you dole it out It won't be long before your third grader is shooting, "Hey. you gave him three eights and I only got two eighths!

    Copyright © 1998 by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

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