Important Cognitive Skills for Third Grade Success

Word problems and question skills make this list

third graders writing at desks in class
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Third grade is a year of growth spurts physically, academically and socially, and students need to develop certain cognitive skills to succeed at the grade level. The skills that are important for third grade are those that help your child move from a very concrete learner to a more abstract thinker, able to apply ideas in a number of different situations.

The Ability to Skip Count 

By third grade, students should be able to skip count by a variety of different numbers (count by 2, by 5, by 10, etc.).

Most students should have been able to skip count for a while, but it's not the actual counting that's important; it's the ability to connect the patterns of skip counting with multiplication facts. Being able to understand that counting by five is really reciting the multiplication table makes it much easier to learn multiplication and division.

Use of Literacy Skills in Everyday Language

Third graders should be able to incorporate literacy skills into everyday language and vice versa. At this age, children become more fluent and discerning readers, able to grasp the meaning of words via context clues. A child's burgeoning vocabulary will not only begin to reflect the new words and styles of speech he is able to read, but also help him make connections between word roots, prefixes and suffixes.

Creating Number Sentences

In third grade, students should be able to create number sentences (math problems) from word problems.

 This ability is the first in a number of important cognitive skills that combine language and mathematical thinking. Your child is not only beginning to understand how words can represent numbers but also recognizes certain key words that indicate the order of operations. For instance, your child may now be able to tell you that the word "fewer" or the phrase "not as many as" is a clue that a problem will include subtraction.

Questions With a Purpose

Third graders should be able to ask a series of questions to obtain specific knowledge or a better understanding of a topic. While for some people, this skill may seem more like nosiness and annoyance than curiosity and persistence, it's a skill to be cultivated. One of the most important things a student can learn is how to learn.

Asking questions about things, confirming information she's already received and trying to find out where she can learn more about a topic sets your child well on the road to being a self-guided, lifelong learner.

Wrapping Up

If your child is having difficulty with these skills in third grade, see if one-on-one help from a teacher, a tutor or from you will improve his skills. If extra help doesn't work, speak with school faculty about having your child evaluated for a learning disorder. Your child may not have a disability, but, if so, it's better to catch the problem sooner rather than later.  

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