Fourth-grade math: Why it’s hard for kids

Kids who struggle with math in fourth grade are not alone. What’s so different about fourth-grade math? 

In third grade, kids learn about multiplying and dividing numbers within 100, like multiplying single-digit numbers (6 × 9). Kids also start solving word problems and doing mental math. 

In fourth grade, the concepts are more complicated. Students spend a lot of time exploring math concepts like:

  • Multi-digit multiplication, like 26 × 10
  • Two- and three-digit division, like 144 ÷ 12
  • Working with and comparing fractions

The pace of learning also speeds up in fourth grade. Kids learn about new math concepts quickly, so they might not see right away how they’re connected. As a result, they may feel discouraged.

Fourth graders also learn why math works, not just how to get the right answer. They learn to use different models and visuals to solve problems and show their process. This is challenging, but showing work helps kids understand why math works the way it does.

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About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Brendan R. Hodnett, MAT is a special education teacher in Middletown, New Jersey, and an adjunct professor at Hunter College.


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