Homework Problems for a 5Th Grader

Updated on October 12, 2008
J.S. asks from Bellevue, WA
28 answers

Hi moms. My daughter, who was always very on top of her homework, is suddenly having problems. It is only an issue for a couple of subjects, like math. But I'm not sure what to do. It's almost like she has lost confidence in her ability to do math, so she has given up trying. We are always there to help her figure out the problems and, with a little effort on her part, she is able to figure them out just fine. But she is so turned off by math, that she is not even coming to us for help until the last minute. Is this a passing stage? Do I need to seek outside homework help? Talk with her teacher? Or do I need to concentrate more on boosting her confidence in herself? Any advice would be much appreciated!

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So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone who offered advice! Your advice made for great discussions with the teacher and helped to eliminate a wide range of possible issues. Thank you, thank you, thank you :) We finally figured out that this was more a problem with perfection than with math. The teacher was hoping to encourage some of the students in her class that did not want to put forth enough effort by showing the class "perfect" examples. For example, she would show a very complete WASL style answer to story problems or a very colorful/ exceptional book report. My daughter thought that anything less than these "perfect" examples was failing. This was especially traumatic in math where her confidence was a bit lacking. Now that we've had discussions with her about perfection and continue to give her extra help with math, she seems like her happy old self again :) Thanks again, moms!

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K.I.

answers from Spokane on

Hi...
I would hire her a tutor. Lots of kids have trouble with math and when you dont know what you are doing it is frustrating..also talk with the teacher and see what the teacher thinks, She should be able to give you some insight into whether or not she is having trouble grasping concepts or if its something else. I would act quickly and stay on top of it though...It is really easy to get way behind way fast!

K.

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W.E.

answers from Portland on

Hi J., I would talk to her causually to find out if something is bothering her. I have heard that if there is a change in personality/character there may be something going on with them emotionally. Next I would call the teacher and tell her. Teachers understand this age and can tell us moms what is normal or not. Good for you for noticing and caring - W.

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C.J.

answers from Eugene on

Math gets more difficult at 5th grade. I would talk with her teacher, and perhaps consider hiring a tutor. I was a math major and have a teaching credential, so if you would like to contact me, send me an e-mail at [email protected]____.com. I also tutored at Sylvan Learning Center.

2 moms found this helpful

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P.G.

answers from Seattle on

As a retired school teacher of 30 years, this kind of story worries me a lot. I think that you should dig deep for what happened -- there has to be a reason, and I fear that it might be something to do with the teacher and how he/she has behaved with your daughter. Try very hard to get your daughter to tell you her story behind her sudden avoidance of math. Embarrassment by the teacher, teasing??? I have seen many things happen, some by complete accident without any intent to harm, and some by teachers who have their own issues which they have brought into the classroom. It isn't a passing stage. Something has happened. Good luck. Penny Gonzales

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C.N.

answers from Seattle on

Having been a teacher for nine years, my advice would be to have a conference with the teacher at the first available opportunity. Problems like this always show up and the sooner the teacher knows, the sooner she/he can intervene and try and stop the problem. She/he has likely encountered this before and can do some things to help your daughter.

On a separate note, her frustration could be due to the teacher. Sometimes the teacher and student just don't connect and that can often effect how the student performs. Should this be the case, the good news is that you should only see this problem this year and things may greatly improve next year.

Your job is to try to determine which scenario fits and you can't do that until you meet with the teacher. Give the teacher the opportunity to address the issue, give it some time, and then if things don't improve, look at other options. Tutoring with someone outside of the classroom, meeting with the principal, or a move to another teacher at semester (this I would avoid if at all possible even if the school were to allow it).

Good luck, I am sure with a little diligence it will all work out.

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D.S.

answers from Seattle on

There's always a possibility that there is an issue with your daughter and her teacher. My son is also a fifth grader, and we had some SERIOUS issues with his third grade teacher (to the point he was BEGGING me not to send him to school), and he had a LOT of trouble with his schoolwork that year, but last year he did WONDERFULLY because he had a teacher that he clicked with. His third grade teacher, however, just had a personality that he did not do well with. She was a very inflexible woman and refused to accomidate his needs in the classroom (he has adhd and was diagnosed last year with Asperger's Syndrome), and simply looked at the fact that he's an exceptionally bright student that wasn't 'working to his potential' (god how I hate that phrase). This year, we have a similar problem, his teacher has a lot of the same personality and teaching style, and I'm seeing a lot of the same signs that we did two years ago.

So, go talk to the teacher, but also talk to your daughter, and try to get a feel for how well she and her teacher get along. It really DOES make a difference.

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N.Z.

answers from Portland on

Talk to her teacher. There may be a problem in the classroom. She may sit too far from the board. She may sit with kids that talk. The teacher might not make themselves available or she might be shy around this teacher. Then there are learning disorders. My problem with math started about 4th grade.
Good communication is key. There also may be tutors available through the school to help her with her homework. Having a tutor really has helped my 6th grader. He's more open to asking them the questions.

Good luck!

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L.G.

answers from Seattle on

My daughter had this issue, too. I was homeschooling her, so it was particularly challenging! I teach Montessori-based preschool, so I got out my Montessori materials and worked the problems through with her in a tangible way so that she could see them. Sometimes, I just drew it on paper. That seemed to help her. You may not have a stash of Montessori math materials on hand, but you might be able to use beads or any other small object to show her that, although this seems different, it is just a different method of using the same old familiar numbers that she already knows. Good luck, Mama! Blessings to you and yours! :)

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A.T.

answers from Portland on

Oh wow- that sounds like me when I was her age. I strongly urge you to get her a tutor if she is habving problems with math. I could not learn math at the same pace as other kids in my grade. I have to have someone go over it over and over VERY slowly. (I still do!) I really wish my parents would have done this for me. I'm sure I would have hated it at the time, but the anxiety I feel over math now, could possibly have been lessened by tutoring. Good luck!

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J.H.

answers from Portland on

Hello J., I've never been good at math myself. I'm wondering if your daughter has been teased or picked on by the other kids in her class. You should ask questions of the teacher about what's going on in school. I was the youngest of 3 sibblings and I always felt I had to be as good as all 3 sisters. Please check out the emotional pressures of what your daughter is feeling. Then a bit of home schooling might be in order. My grandson had trouble in the 2nd grade and after being homeschooled for 2 years he was able to go back into the school system and do just fine. Don't let this problem continue as it could lead to problems later. Sincerely J. a mother and grandmother.

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A.O.

answers from Seattle on

Absolutely talk to her teacher. It will only be a passing phase if you are able to catch her reasons for feeling turned off by it and solve it. Im sure there is an underlying issue. Whatever it is, if she can find some success she will pass through the phase just fine. Don't hesitate though... call the teacher asap.

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W.C.

answers from Seattle on

Math at fifth grade suddenly becomes much harder. It requires a lot more figuring and paper work. And has more long division, fraction division, etc. You can no longer rely on intuitive on the spot knowledge to come up with the answer. I would begin by talking to her teacher and if he/she is in agreement seek out a professional tutor before your daughter feels she even less confident. I would also check on your daughter's math homework first. That way she is fresh and in a better mood to do it.

Your working on a number of levels:
Academic
Self confidence
Work study skills

--ex teacher

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C.H.

answers from Medford on

You might want to try www.homeworkhelp.com and www.reasoningmind.org and you will find LOTS of ideas and help. Good luck.

C. M Hamlin
Cave Junction, OR

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M.B.

answers from Seattle on

J.,

She might have discalculia (sp?). It is a mathematical dyslexia and can wreak havoc when you're trying to do math. I've never been formally diagnosed, but years ago I stumbled across a website that gave a list of "if you have these, then you might have discalculia". I had 8 of the 10 (or so) symptoms.

Imagine sitting at your desk staring at 4+9=? and the 4 could be a 4, 6, 9, 8, or even a letter. Same thing with the 9. My dad always thought I was being lazy and not applying myself. To this day I have a hard time with simple addition and subtraction. I was always confused and struggled because the problem would change every time I looked at it.

I'm adding the first website to pop up when I google math dyslexia: http://www.dyscalculia.org/

Hope this helps,
Melissa

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M.K.

answers from Seattle on

Lots of good advice already, but i wanted to mention it's worth checking in a little deeper on what is going on socially/emotionally at school. Personality issues w/ peers, popularity (smart = "nerd", or whatever the term is for today's generation), social situations in the classroom, attention from boys (or lack therof) and you already mentioned confidence, and that applies in a broader sense too-
There is a lot going on at her age that has nothing to do with her abitliy to do math, especially with girls.

It may be as simple as they have a new topic or way of teaching math this year that is tough for her to grasp, but i think it's worth keeping an eye out in case that's just the symptom.

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J.G.

answers from Anchorage on

you are entitled to a free evaluation by the special ed team at her school. Call the special ed teacher there and say you want to have her evaluated. You do not need the teacher's recommendation. Just say she is having difficulty with math and you want to rule out a math disability or anything that can affect her learning. If your daughter is homeschooled or goes to a private school you can still have the eval. done - for free - at whatever school she would attend if she went to public school.. just call that school and ask for the special ed teacher and say you want an evaluation..

best wishes..

J.

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M.H.

answers from Seattle on

She may not NEED a tutor, but i bet she could really benefit from one. You could find a professional source (a tutoring center), or even just see if one of the teenagers in your area wants to earn a little extra cash.

I do think its important to nip her lack of confidence in the bud, because if she starts to get behind it will probably snowball.

(You may also try talking to her about her teacher. Could be that this instructor is not a good match for her - perhaps they communicate differently, or perhaps the teacher is too critical in class. You may not be able to change instructors for her, but, perhaps if you commiserate, you can help her see that she can be good at math, even if she is not enjoying the class this year.)

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A.M.

answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,
I would agree with those who say to speak with the teacher first! After talking with the teachers who are teaching the classes she is having problems in. I'm sure you will get a better feel of the situations when you talk to them. I know at our school they have programs for extra help for kids struggling with a certain subjects. Next I would talk to your daughter. Don't lead her into her answers just in a casual conversation bring up something like "how do you like your (subject) class this year". Ask if she has friends in her class, ask what her teacher is like. You can get all kind of info if you beat around the bush a little. LOL With all this information you should be able to figure out is going on.
There are also tutoring progams that you can use to get extra help in the subjects she needs.

Good Luck!

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K.M.

answers from Spokane on

Hi J.!

Being a math teacher at the middle school level I agree with the advice already given. Hopefully I can add one more piece of information to your frustration. Now that your daughter is getting into higher levels of math, the subject of math will change each year. For instance, 5th grade math is predominantly Geometry. 6th grade math is Algebra centered. Each year after this will continue to alternate until about the junior year of high school. Some students thrive better in one subject and not the other. Which is why you see kids liking math and doing well one year and struggling the next. Geometry is very abstract math that we don't see on a regular basis (angles, shapes, formulas, etc.) I think you're doing the right thing by being proactive early. Hopefully next year will be more enjoyable for her where she'll learn percents, fractions, etc. (The fun stuff that helps us shop!)

Good luck and God bless!

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D.A.

answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,
My son went through a similar experience in fifth grade which was actually heightened because it was his first year at a new school. He was very frustrated with math. I re-count the days as one hour of homework and two hours of crying. It was a very difficult time for all of us, but we got through it and he is now a highly capable sixteen year old looking forward to college. Here's what worked for us.

I empathized with him and approached him with a loving heart. No matter how angry and upset he was I just kept being as understanding and nurturing as I could be. I sat right by him for the three hours. I made cocoa and encouraged frequent breaks. I took an interest in re-learning math and he took an interest in teaching me. Even if I knew that part, I pretended that I didn't so he could work through the explanation. And like your child once he got started, knowing I was there for support, he was willing to keep plodding through.

I also coached him on how to work with his fantastic teacher. Each night we made a note of the problems that caused the most angst and he made sure to ask his teacher about them the next day. I definitely would work with the teacher on this issue. As it turned out, his teacher already had a plan for helping kids who were struggling.

I sat right next to him for three hours until the Christmas break. After, the new year something had flipped and he didn't need me to sit there the whole time. Of course, we still continued with the cocoa and breaks.

There is actually scientific evidence that supports the practice of frequent breaks when trying to learn.

I hope this helps,
D.

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C.M.

answers from Seattle on

Hi,

I would do ALL of the above! First talk to the teacher, maybe there's something going on there like a comment or some other problem at school. I'm big on boosting confidence and so that's a given. If the "talk" with the teacher doesn't help or change anything, then I'd seek outside help for Krystal but don't let it go too long or she'll get so far behind that she'll be overwelmed with it all.

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D.T.

answers from Portland on

There are lots of games that require math skills. I would take time to play her regularly to build up her skills in a fun way that is not "work". Math is just one of those skills that requires alot of repetition to get better at.

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

I would suggest getting math off the paper. One of the reasons why math is so boring and hard for many kids is because it is nothing but numbers on a paper, and looks so confusing.

Try applying the problems to real like to figure it out, or at the very least use story problems. Once she understands the concept, she can move to completing the practice problems on her page.

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C.W.

answers from Portland on

I would first talk to her teacher about it. It seems like she is not understanding it and she may not be alone!

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T.R.

answers from Seattle on

I had the same issue with my daughter last year when she was in fourth grade and I did talk to her teacher and the teacher just said that I needed to do more games and activities at home with my daughter to keep her interested and up to date with math skills. Tutoring wasn't an option in the budget so I looked into a couple programs to buy and came across "Brainetics.com". I bought the program for $199.00 and it comes with a full program of CD's and workbook and other misc. items for working with the program. She was able to sit down and do the CD's over the summer and it made an amazing difference in her math skills (the 5th grade teacher was also her 4th grade teacher and she can't believe it). It was totally worth the money and don't regret spending the money one bit.

Good Luck!

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J.T.

answers from Portland on

J., if this is an isolated problem (ie: just math), it's probably not something to be overly concerned about. If she were showing signs of withdrawal across the board, then I would get her to her doctor immediately. It's a tough age for many kids - especially girls. Many of them are experiencing the onset of pubert etc. My advice is to talk to her teacher. Teachers are usually the best tools we have to monitor and assess our kids' school performances. Unless it's recommended by the teacher, I would not advise you to seek help outside of school. It can be expensive, and often not worth the money. Another thing to consider is that it may give a child mixed signals (I'm good enough for school, but not my parents...) It's usually the case that what a child needs is available at the child's school. Good teachers will be honest with parents and tell them if their kids need extra help.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I think you should talk to your daughter. Be patient and willing to listen to what she says or doesn't say. You want to reassure her that you're concerned about her for her sake, and that you will be proud of her no matter what. Some kids feel that any grade less than an A is a failure. If your daughter is used to doing well and is suddenly finding that the more advanced math of 5th grade is a challenge, she may very well feel some real anxiety. I would encourage her to do her best, and then give her lots of pats on the back when she does...even if she doesn't ace it. Good luck to you and to Krystal. She's lucky to have you!

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B.P.

answers from Seattle on

Definately let the teacher know of your concerns. She will find some extra help for you and teach you how to help her at home.

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A.M.

answers from Portland on

I would talk to the teacher and find out about his/her teaching style, which sadly could be the problem for your child. Kids usually lose confidence if they suddenly feel stupid. Not meaning that the teacher has necessarily DONE anything, but people do communicate differently. It just seems odd that it happened right when school started.

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