By 5th Grade, students have already gone through several years of math to get prepared for the toughest concepts in Elementary School. They are now expected to face longer word problems and questions with multiple steps. It is also the time for them to learn content crucial for standardized tests and start their preparations. At this important stage, students need to build their skills, their confidence, and avoid making careless math mistakes. Read on to find out the top 3 common 5th grade math mistakes and how you can avoid careless math errors!
Understanding common mistakes and knowing how to identify them can help students avoid losing points on assignments and tests. Spark Education has started the Top 3 Common Math Mistakes to Avoid series to provide essential advice! We asked the Spark Math teaching team to share valuable tips and tricks and they delivered them.
Common mistake 1: Fraction with Units
Fractions are a big topic in Elementary math; students will learn fractions in greater depth in 5th Grade. They will learn about adding and subtracting mixed numbers (comprised of whole numbers and fractions), converting fractions to decimals, and more. The problems in Grade 5 are more challenging as they involve critical thinking methodology, and test students’ ability to look out for details and accurately solve them.
This is a common mistake easily made by students for fractions-related questions. When students see 1/2 in a question, they can mistake it as “1/2 lb” and use that in their calculations. For the above question, compare “1/2 lb” and “1/2 of 5 lb” — this will equate to 1/2 lb and 2 1/2 lb, which makes a lot of difference.
Students should understand that at upper Elementary, equations will require them to take note of more details. They need to be familiar with adding and subtracting mixed numbers swiftly and accurately. One important tip is to always pay attention to the presence or absence of units in numbers. They impact the equation and answer differently and will result in different steps to take.
Common Mistake 2: Concept Comprehension Problem
Statistics is a category that makes up a crucial part of the 5th Grade math syllabus. Students will learn how to interpret information from a set of data. The questions will challenge students’ ability to apply mathematical theories to real-life scenarios at a higher level and understand what concepts they are supposed to apply.
In this question, the part where many students often make mistakes is the concept of “any portion of”. They may not know what to do when the remaining distance is shorter than 400 m. A common mistake students usually make is overlooking the need to calculate the cost in groups instead of the actual proportion, resulting in an inaccurate answer.
For this type of question, students need to know how to calculate the charge for the remaining distance. They should understand the concept of “any portion of” and know that any remaining distance shorter than 400 m is considered a group belonging to the “For every additional 400 m or part thereof” statement, which is charged $0.22.
Since the additional distance after the first kilometer is charged $0.22 for each group of 400 m, students can round up the remaining distance of 1.4 km or 1400 m to 4 groups of 400 m, and use this to calculate Casey’s taxi fare.
Common Mistake 3: Wrong conversion of units and carelessness
Ratios are one of the new topics students will learn in 5th Grade. This is an important topic as ratios will be covered in Grade 5 and Grade 6. The longer word problem equations in 5th Grade math also test students’ reading comprehension ability.
When students are sitting for a timed test or under exam stress conditions, they can easily misread the information given. Students may not notice that the wire’s length is 4.5 meters, while Jenny cut off 30 centimeters of the wire. Mixing this up will cause the calculations of measurement to be inaccurate.
Another common mistake is students may be careless in reading the question, which leads them to use the wrong values. The question above asks for the difference between the length of Jenny’s and Kayla’s wires. However, the student here calculated the total length of the wire.
Students should cultivate the habit of checking their work as part of their problem-solving process. A good method is to use a highlighter or pen to underline the units when they read the question. Converting units of measurement is an essential skill that will be frequently tested in Grade 5 and beyond, so students should practice converting units quickly and accurately.
Equations in Grade 5 contain more details and require deeper thinking before they start calculating. One tip to prevent carelessness and common mistakes is to identify the keywords used in the question. In this question, the keyword “difference” provides a helpful hint that tells students to not only compare two values but also do a subtraction operation–subtracting the number with the smallest value from the number with the largest value–to derive their solution.
Overcome mistakes and become a math ace with Spark Math!
In preparation for standardized testing, students need to delve deeper into mathematical problem solving and master new concepts in ratios and percentages. They need to learn how to handle word problems that require process thinking and application of appropriate strategies to solve. Some students may find 5th Grade math daunting due to the increased complexity. To overcome this, ensure students have ample practice and learn how to avoid the common math mistakes in solving word problems. These essential tips and tricks will help students in their journey toward achieving their math excellence.
At Spark Math by Spark Education, children can look forward to an immersive and fun experience where they learn math through play! There’s a variety of animation, engaging storylines, and gamification elements to enrich the learning experience. Interested in snagging a free trial class for your child? Sign up here and start your child’s math journey today.
Check out these other articles in our “Common Math Mistakes and How to Avoid Them” series: