Math Grades and Standards

Sep 17, 2023 | Papillion

I had an interesting conversation with a parent the other day. We’ve worked with her daughter for 3 months and the daughter’s level of math mastery is about 2 ½ years behind what we expect for her grade level.

The mom asked me if her daughter could be at grade level within a year, and we talked about what that could look like. While it seems like a simple yes/no question, we’re in a time when it’s challenging to answer. One reason is that school grades are one of the key indicators families use to determine a student’s level of academic achievement, and that seems a reasonable thing to do. So, does working at grade level mean achieving A’s and B’s at school?

In addition to academic achievement, school grades often include feedback on attendance, effort, engagement, amount of work completed, all in addition to the level of mastery of specific skills. Students often have good report card grades, even when they have not mastered the skills for their grade level. The skills designated for mastery at each grade level are called standards.

In Nebraska, the state sets standards, identifying the skills students must demonstrate at each grade in each subject, in order to be considered proficient. The Nebraska Department of Education says “The grade level standards identify what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level or grade band.” For example, one of Nebraska’s 4th grade math standards is that students are able to “Determine factors of any whole number up to 100 and classify a number up to 100 as prime or composite.”

Teachers and schools are doing everything they can to empower students to master those skills. Given the learning we lost during the pandemic though, it is often not possible with the time and other resources they have. Students are working hard, so are their parents and so are educators. That doesn’t change the fact that there is no shortcut for making up the learning we lost and many kids are experiencing that loss. To muddy the waters further, those same students who don’t meet standards may have A’s and B’s on their report cards.TIME Magazine recently addressed this question as well. Tips in the article for families include:

"1) Ask the teacher if your child is on grade level; 2) Be in the know about what is expected for grade level (the organization explains how); 3) Connect to programs that can help get your child the support they need, be it tutoring or after-school help."

It may be unclear for the kids in your family whether math is going well. We can turn this tide if we know where we stand, and take steps to address it. Mathnasium can be one of several resources to help. Our assessments and individualized learning plans are standards-based, and students move from topic to topic as they demonstrate mastery. Contact us to learn more about a risk-free, standards-based assessment for your child.