what do you learn in fourth grade

Fourth grade is a big year for your young student. They’re over halfway through elementary school, officially making them the big kids on the block. Concepts begin to get trickier as they tackle long division, multiplication tables and more complicated works of middle-grade fiction. There’s no need to worry, though. Your child is probably 9 or 10 years old now, and they’re more than ready to handle these concepts.

As a parent, what can you do to support your child and rally behind them as they embark on this exciting new year in their lives and dive into new, exciting and complex topics? One of the best things you can do is to familiarize yourself with the material they will learn. No, you don't need to break out your old multiplication flashcards and study them yourself, but it is a good idea to revisit the main ideas and subjects they will return to throughout the year.

If you have a general understanding of the concepts covered in fourth grade, when your child comes to you for help with their homework, you’ll be ready and able to provide the support they need. To get you started on your crash course in fourth-grade material, we’ve put together this quick guide of things your student's classes will likely touch on this year. This guide covers general aspects of your child's fourth-grade education, though curriculum may vary depending on your location. It's an excellent way to start readying for grade four.

What Should a Fourth-Grader Know?

Fourth grade marks a big step up for students. All traces of the training wheels are long behind students, and fourth-graders are truly expected to put forth a significant amount of effort both in the classroom and at home where they’ll complete regular homework assignments. The mechanics of reading are no longer a major focus, as most students have these down by heart by now. Students may receive textbooks for each different subject.

Additionally, new challenges will come in the form of rising social expectations, as students may need to work with their peers to complete group assignments. Time management becomes critical as students take home multiple homework assignments from different teachers and different classes, and must finish them all in time.

To keep things simple, we’ve broken up some of the biggest topics your fourth-grader will hit this year by subject. By giving yourself a brief overview and making sure you understand these concepts, you’ll be well on your way to providing your student with the back-up they’ll need this year.

Language and Literacy in Fourth Grade

Straight reading lessons become a thing of the past this year. Students should have a firm grasp of the basics and will move along to more advanced aspects of their language and literacy development, such as:

  • Advanced Vocabulary: Students will likely have the skills to begin expanding their vocabulary on their own. They should start to learn strategies for determining the meanings of new words, including recognizing the root of a word, such as “act” in the word “action,” and through context clues.
  • Reference Materials: Students will work on becoming more adept at using dictionaries, thesauruses and other tools to look up words when they don’t understand them.
  • Independent Reading: Many fourth-graders will be expected to read by themselves, both in and out of the classroom. Independent reading may become a timeslot in the middle of their school day, and books may be assigned to read at home during the year and especially during the summer. Students will be encouraged to pick out longer, more advanced books with challenging vocabulary and plot structures.

fourth grader reading by himself

  • New Genres: Students will be introduced to genres like myths and legends, and they may get interested in fantasy, adventure and historical stories. Fourth-graders will likely start relating to characters that look, sound, and act like them, and they’ll recognize story elements that are familiar from their own lives.
  • Writing Skills: Students will be expected to do more writing in the form of journal entries, book reports and essays. They’ll learn more about coherent sentence structure, paragraph formation and the logical flow of thoughts in writing. Spelling and grammar will still be highlighted, and students will be encouraged to work on these areas.
  • Literary Analysis: Children may be asked to discuss books read as a class, either in the form of written book reports, class discussion or simple comprehension questions. They may be asked to recall events from the story, interpret what they mean and analyze what the characters are thinking and feeling.

Math in Fourth Grade

Fourth-grade math is usually still at a level that most adults can keep up with, although you may need a refresher regarding long division on paper. This year's math is more complicated than anything your student has done before, and you will want to be ready for them to come to you for help with a homework sheet of problems.

Just a few of the concepts they’ll likely deal with this year include:

  • Large Whole Numbers: Students are probably very familiar with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These concepts all become more complicated, however, as students are asked to work with large whole numbers. This is particularly challenging in complex multiplication and long division, as students will be asked to work large problems by hand.
  • Multiplication Tables: Teachers will drill multiplication tables frequently, and students will be expected to learn these so well that they can recite the answers up to 12x12 without having to think about them.
  • Fractions and Decimals: These will become more complicated, as well, as students work with irregular fractions and decimals.
  • Prime Numbers: The idea of prime numbers, or numbers that can only be divided by themselves and 1, will be introduced and explored.
  • Multiples and Factors: Fourth-graders will learn about multiples and factors, and they will use them to break down larger numbers and build up larger numbers.

fourth graders learning multiples and factors

  • Geometry: Geometry will likely become a focus as well, with students measuring the perimeter, area and volume of squares, rectangles, triangles and more.
  • Conversion: Children will learn more about units such as feet, inches, meters, quarts, cups, gallons, liters and more. They’ll determine the conversion rates between these different units and be asked to convert one set of units into another.
  • Word Problems: Word problems will still be around, and they’ll be more complicated, often involving multiple steps that a student will have to recognize and perform accurately.
  • Data: Students will work with charts, graphs and statistics, learning how to interpret these as well as creating their own.

Science in Fourth Grade

If you have a fourth-grader in the house, then you know kids this age demonstrate curiosity about everything. They may have a phase where they’re really interested in the weather or outer space or lizards or bugs. Whatever their current obsession is, science class is the place where they can explore it. For that reason, science class is often a favorite at this age, as kids receive the tools to explore the world around them. They learn how to ask questions and how to find the answers they’re looking for.

This is the year kids start to look at the world in terms of complex systems with lots of moving parts, as opposed to just studying small and isolated concepts. This means that in fourth-grade science class, these are the heavy-hitters to watch out for:

  • The Water Cycle: Kids will learn about how the clouds, the rain, the ocean, groundwater and the water that comes out of their tap are all connected. They’ll learn about gases, liquids, solids and how the same drop of water can cycle through all three of these phases.
  • Ecology: Students will look at animals and how they interact with the environment around them. This means investigating things like life cycles, the food chain, natural habitats, extinction and more.

learning how animals interact with the environment

  • Classification: The idea of major classification systems will also be a focus, as students learn the different ways animals, plants, rocks and more are categorized into major groups based on similar characteristics.
  • The Earth: Kids will learn more about the Earth, its composition and how it has changed over time. They’ll study climates, the different pre-historic periods, geology and fossils as they explore our planet and how it has come to where we are today.
  • The Solar System: Students will learn about the cosmos, including naming different planets and learning about their characteristics along with learning about meteors, asteroids, galaxies and stars.
  • Experimentation and the Scientific Method: Students will put their natural curiosity to work by performing experiments, making hypotheses and recording their results. They’ll learn all about the scientific method, and famous scientists and their well-known experiments of the past.

Social Studies in Fourth Grade

Is your student going through a phase where they’re passionately interested in pirates or Vikings or ancient Egypt or any aspect of history or modern society? They may be expanding their historical and cultural knowledge on their own through their own reading, and they may be excited to learn more about their new fascinations. They will love social studies in fourth grade.

In addition to studying civilizations, fourth grade often includes a large focus on the student’s home state, helping them place their community in the broader context of the state. Some things your student will learn this year will probably include:

  • Local State Info: Students will learn things like parts of your state’s history, the state flower, the state bird, the state capital and much more. They’ll learn about the geography of your state, the biggest cities and other topics of local interest. This may include field trips to local government buildings or even your state’s capital if you’re close enough.
  • Government: Students will learn about local, state and federal branches of government, including how they pass laws and how the different branches and levels of government relate to one another.
  • Geography: Geography will continue to be a point of interest, not just in terms of learning oceans, mountains and rivers, although that will be part of it. Students will read maps, measure distance and learn about different types of maps that show things like population, topography, language and more.

learning about maps and geography

  • The American Revolution: As students find out more about the government this year, it makes sense that they also discover how this system of government came to be. Kids will learn about the Revolutionary War, George Washington, the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere and other important aspects of our nation's founding.
  • The Constitution: No, kids probably won’t memorize the entire thing by heart, but they will likely gain a rudimentary understanding of what this document is, how it came to be, how it functions and the basic tenets of what’s inside it.
  • World History: This will probably not be the main focus of the year, but your fourth-grader will also learn about medieval Europe, Ancient Rome and major time periods in European and world history.

Fourth Grade School Supply List

In addition to helping your child with their homework and answering any questions they might have, one of the most supportive things you can do for your fourth-grader is to send them off on their first day with the supplies they need to succeed. With this in mind, here are some school supplies for fourth-grade success:

  • 3-Ring Binder: With the amount of homework and handouts increasing, give your child a place to keep them contained.
  • Pencils: Pencils are a must. You may want to also include additional erasers and a sharpener.
  • Pens: Black or dark blue are standard, but you might also include a few colored pens for fun.
  • Highlighters: For your student to work on their note-taking skills, a highlighter is an invaluable tool.
  • Glue Sticks: To work on art projects and presentations, every student needs a few reliable glue sticks.

glue sticks for art projects

  • Crayons: It's a great idea to have these available, as they come in handy both during art class and during free time.
  • Ruler: Your student will do plenty of measuring in math and science. Set them up for success with a ruler marked for both inches and centimeters.
  • Pencil Case: This will give your child a handy way to keep all their pens, pencils, markers and rulers contained and organized.
  • Spiral Notebook(s): Your student will need at least one, although your school will probably dictate how many they’ll need specifically. They’ll use these to write journal entries, answer questions, complete math problems and more.
  • Backpack: Most likely, your child will have one of these from years past. Reuse this old one or treat your child to a new one this year. Either way, this is an essential tool your child will need to carry their belongings.
  • Student Day Planner: With their workload and homework assignments increasing, your student will need a place to keep all their to-do items written down and organized in one place, so they can see them and plan their time accordingly. The best way to help them to do this is to provide them with a day planner featuring a calendar, agenda and plenty of space for taking notes.

Help Your Student Get Organized for Fourth Grade

Knowing what's due when will increase your child's confidence and decrease their chances of missing an assignment. A planner can teach your fourth-grader important lessons about responsibility. Success by Design offers a wide range of colors, patterns, styles and layouts for your student’s planner. Shop our full selection today and help set your fourth-grader on the road to success. Because success doesn’t happen by accident. You plan for it.