Fifth-grade students are social individuals who benefit from communication, value the opinions of others, and seek the acceptance of peers. These students possess a wide array of interests that define their social and emotional development. They continue to explore independent thinking in both academic and nonacademic settings. Content presented in an authentic context heightens their interest and enthusiasm for acquiring new knowledge and skills.
The fifth-grade classroom should be characterized by actively engaged students working in collaborative groups to solve increasingly complex problems. A positive learning environment encourages and challenges students as they progress in mathematical knowledge and skills, recognizes students' efforts, and fosters students' mathematical self-confidence and self-reliance.
Content standards for fifth grade are designed to allow students to learn mathematics concepts with understanding. Learning with understanding makes subsequent learning easier as students are better able to connect new knowledge to existing knowledge. Learning with understanding also allows students to enhance problem-solving skills and become more adept in computational skills. According to the NCTM, development of a balance of and a connection between conceptual understanding and computational proficiency is necessary for students to achieve computational fluency.
The mathematics curriculum in fifth grade emphasizes fluency in computing and problem solving with whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. Students apply basic operations to problem-solving situations with a greater understanding of the meanings of operations and how they relate to one another. Although fifth-grade students may continue to benefit from the use of concrete models as well as symbolic models, they move toward an abstract level of thinking as they actively acquire new knowledge of symbolic representations.