Skills kids need going into third grade

Children at school painting and drawing.

At a glance

  • By the beginning of third grade, kids are expected to be able to do basic writing, editing, and revising.

  • They’re also expected to have mastered basic reading skills and start focusing on comprehension.

  • Third graders need to be familiar with three-digit numbers and know which of the digits is in the “ones” place and which is in the “tens” and the “hundreds” place.

Reading is a big focus in third grade. You may have heard people say it’s when kids shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” To get ready for this, it’s important for kids to master basic “learning to read” skills, like building vocabulary, fluency, and .

Your state’s academic standards outline the skills kids are expected to know at each grade level. Here are some of the key skills kids need to learn by the end of second grade.

Skills to get ready for grade 3: English language arts and literacy

During second grade, kids keep building skills in reading, writing, and conversation. They learn to think about and summarize what they read in many different types of texts. This includes stories, articles, and books with multiple chapters.

Rising third graders are expected to know how to collect information about a single topic from a variety of sources and summarize it. They’re also expected to use editing and revising skills in their writing. Here are some ways kids build skills in these areas and get ready for third grade:

  • Read fables and folktales from different cultures and identify the central message, lesson, or moral in the stories

  • Read about science, social studies, and history and determine the purpose and main idea of these texts

  • Answer who, what, where, when, why, and how questions about stories (both in writing and when speaking), using the rules of standard English

  • Describe how an author uses detail to support an idea

  • Gather facts about a topic and describe what was learned (Watch a video on how third graders do research for an essay.)

  • Write about an event with a beginning, middle, and end

  • Write about books using details and examples to back up opinions

Learn more about trouble with reading and writing and how to choose books at your child’s reading level. And explore fun ways to increase phonological awareness, build reading skills, and encourage writing.

Skills to get ready for grade 3: Mathematics

By the beginning of third grade, kids start using abstract thinking skills in math. They’re working with three-digit numbers and using their understanding of place value (like knowing that the “3” in “357” is in the hundreds place and means “300,” the “5” is in the tens place and means “50,” and so on).

Place value is an important concept. It not only helps with addition and subtraction but serves as the foundation for the rounding, multiplying, and dividing that will occur in third grade.

Second graders keep working on addition and subtraction and start learning how to measure objects and shapes. By the end of second grade, kids are expected to be able to do activities like these:

  • Add and subtract numbers up to 100 to solve one- or two-step word problems

  • Add and subtract up to 20 using mental math strategies (instead of having to do the calculations on paper)

  • Understand the ones, tens, and hundreds place in a three-digit number

  • Start adding and subtracting three-digit numbers

  • Read and write numbers up to 1,000

  • Measure and also estimate length using inches, feet, centimeters, and meters

  • Solve problems using money values, like knowing that a dime equals 10 pennies

  • Divide circles, squares, and rectangles into equal portions (halves, thirds, quarters)

  • Solve word problems using information from a bar graph

Learn more about how kids can get tripped up by math problems. See what third-grade academic skills typically look like in action. Explore fun multisensory techniques for teaching math. Take a look, too, at how math skills develop at different ages.

How to help your rising third grader

As your child gets older, having a strong foundation in reading and math skills will be essential to success in school. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with third-grade retention laws, so if your child is having trouble you can speak with the teacher to see what supports are available. It’s never too early to ask for help!

Try playing games to improve math skills. As for improving reading skills, continuing to read to your child and helping your child work on reading comprehension are good ways to get ready for third grade.

Key takeaways

  • Understanding place value is an important math skill for third grade.

  • Third graders are expected to start focusing more on reading comprehension.

  • Practicing reading and math skills at home can help prepare your child for third grade.


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