6th Grade Math Terms and Definitions

If your 6th grader is struggling in math, one reason may be that he or she doesn't know the vocabulary terms that are being used in class. Keep reading to find out how you can help your child organize and review math terms.

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How to Help Your 6th Grader Learn New Math Terms

There tends to be a shift in the focus of math curricula from 5th grade to 6th grade. In 6th grade, students are introduced to new concepts, including ratios, proportions and statistics. Similarly, they begin to learn algebraic expressions like solving for a variable and exponents. All of these topics come with new vocabulary terms, which may be confusing at first.

Help your child keep track of these terms by teaching him how to create and maintain his own math dictionary. It will be most helpful if he starts the dictionary at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of a unit. The dictionary can be kept in the back of his math notebook to allow for easy access during class and at home when he's doing his homework.

This exercise will help your child develop organizational skills. Be sure that he continues to add terms to the dictionary as new ones are introduced. In addition, this method can extend beyond math class. All subjects have content area vocabulary and keeping a dictionary is one way to keep all these terms straight.

Make sure that your child rephrases the definition in his own words. Also, encourage your 6th grader to categorize the words by concept, rather than alphabetically like a typical dictionary. This organization will be helpful when studying for tests.

6th Grade Math Terms by Concept

Number System

The integer that shows you how many times to multiply the number by itself. For instance, 4^2 = 4 x 4 = 16.
Square root
When you calculate the square root of a number, you're finding out what number can be squared (multiplied by itself) to equal another number. The square root of 36 is 6 because 6^2 = 36.

Ratio and Proportions

A rate often reveals the speed at which something can be done. An example is 60 miles an hour. This rate compares the distance to time.
A relationship between two numbers that shows the relative size of both. For instance, if a recipe requires eight cups of sugar and two cups of flour, the ratio of sugar to flour is 8:2, which can be reduced to 4:1.
An equation that compares two ratios. This concept is often used to solve for an unknown. For instance, if you're driving at 60 miles per hour for five hours, how many miles will you travel? Solve this problem with a proportion: 60/1 = x/5. You'll travel 300 miles.


The middle value in a list of numbers. Consider this list of numbers: 1 2 3 3 4 5 6. Three is the median because it's in the middle.
The average of a list of numbers. To calculate mean, add all the values and divide by the total number of values. For the numbers 3 4 5, the mean is four because 3 + 4 + 5 = 12 ÷ 3 = 4.
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