6th Grade Math Tutoring: How to Help Your Sixth Grader with Math

When children struggle with math, it's important that they get help as soon as possible. Since math is a cumulative subject, kids who fall behind often have trouble catching up. Keep reading for tips if your child has begun to struggle with 6th grade math and you're thinking of tutoring him or her.

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Tutoring Sixth Grade Math


In order to get the proper tutoring help for your child, you first need to assess whether or not he or she has grasped all of the concepts and facts that were taught in earlier grades. It generally won't pay to work on 6th grade concepts if understanding of previous concepts is lacking. You can ask the teacher for tests or worksheets to help with this evaluation, or you can look for these online. The teacher can also tell you many of your child's trouble spots.

Possible Tutoring Choices

Tutor Your Child Yourself

The first option is to become your child's tutor. The success of this choice will depend on your abilities and the relationship between you and your child. Some 6th grade children have a difficult time accepting the fact that their parents really do know something about math, and they'll resist learning math from their parents. Other children will relish learning from one or both parents and the 'together-time' it affords.

Some parents don't feel confident in their own math knowledge or in their teaching abilities. Or they may simply not be able to spend the amount of time that it requires to prepare and teach their sixth grader. Parents in any of these situations may prefer other approaches.

Online Tutoring

Paid, online tutoring is usually in a structured curriculum and will take your child step by step through the math. Most of these programs will assess your child's weak areas and make a specific learning plan for him or her. An occasional website offers live answers to your questions when you're on their site.

In-Person Tutoring

In-person tutoring can be through a professional organization where you take your child to their location for lessons. Like online tutoring, these programs will generally help assess what your child knows and work from there. Other in-person tutors may include retired teachers, college students or gifted high school students who come to your home to tutor your child.

How to Tutor Your 6th Grade Child in Math

If you choose to be your child's tutor, there's a lot of online help that can include:

  • Curriculums
  • Lesson plans
  • Printable worksheets and tests
  • Interactive worksheets and tests with immediate feedback
  • Interactive games
  • Stories
  • Songs
  • Videos

Some online help is designed for teachers and classrooms (e.g., www.internet4classrooms.com). However, most of the information given is easily adaptable for your use. You can find a number of sources by searching for 'free math tutoring online.'

In some cases, you may be able to find local homeschooling groups that would welcome you to join, even if you're only 'helping along' in math. These groups often do activities and field trips together; the parents support and help one another as needed.

What to Teach

At home, you can either help to reinforce new concepts that were taught in school or help your child review old material. Because they're used to frequently, it's a good idea to review the following concepts.

  • The multiplication table
  • Adding and subtracting fractions
  • Graphing points on a coordinate plane

Other concepts that will be new to your child this year may include:

  • Ratios
  • Multiplying and dividing fractions
  • Finding the greatest common factor (GCF) between any two numbers within 100
  • Finding the least common multiple (LCM) between any two numbers that are 12 or fewer
  • Order of operations
  • Negative numbers

Ways to Teach

Regardles of whether you and your child are reviewing old material or learning new material, it can be beneficial to use visuals to demonstrate the concept in a concrete way. This could include:

  1. Marbles, M&Ms or buttons: To use these to demonstrate ratios, for example, you must have a variety of colors of whichever medium you choose to use. If you use M&Ms, you could count all of the M&Ms in a small package - let's say there are 12. Then, count all of the yellow ones. If there are three yellow ones, the ratio of yellow M&Ms in that package is three out of 12, written as 3:12.
  2. Drawings: Circles, pictures of pizzas and rectangles on graph paper can all be helpful to demonstrate any of the operations for fractions. For example, if you want to model how to divide fractions, you could divide a circle into nine equal parts, then separate four of those parts out.

    Ask your child to divide 4/9 in half. Then write an equation: 4/9 ÷ 2 = 2/9. Finally, introduce another method for dividing fractions, without the aid of drawings, like this: 4/9 x 1/2 = 4/18 = 2/9.
  3. Number lines: When you teach negative numbers, you go to the left of the zero. This visual aid can be extremely helpful when adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing using both negative and positive numbers. You can also teach coordinate planes with two number lines: a horizontal line and a vertical line that intersect at zero.

Practice and Review

Flash cards are commonly used when reviewing something like the multiplication table. Encourage your child compete with herself. Time how long it takes her to go through the set of cards. After she studies them a bit more, time her again. You can keep doing this until she's very fluent in these facts. Worksheets can be helpful because they provide repetitive practice. Nowadays, you can find hundreds of websites that offer sixth grade worksheets.

Story problems are tricky for many students, but provide a bridge between schoolwork and the real world. For sixth grader, a story problem might look like this:

This winter, Jon kept track of the weather for a week. The high temperature on the first day it was 35 degrees. On the second day, it was 32 degrees. The high temperatures during the next five days were: 39, 37, 40, 38 and 36. Chart those temperatures on a coordinate plane. The horizontal number line (the 'x-axis') could be numbers 1-7 for the seven days of the week. The vertical number line (the 'y-axis') would then include the numbers 32-40 for the high temperatures. Your child would then find and mark the point for the temperature on each of the days.

Interactive math games on the Internet offer enjoyable ways to practice almost every math concept or fact there is. Your child can practice on sites that give him instant feedback as to whether his answer to a problem is correct or not. This will help to correct any mistakes before they become habits.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

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