Third Grade

By third grade, students begin to feel a sense of comfort and competence in their skills. Classroom lessons foster the energy of these young learners, and new skills are acquired as the curriculum helps students challenge new limits and grow academically.

This webpage provides an overview of what your child will learn by the end of third grade, as directed by the Iowa Core, our statewide academic standards. The Iowa Core standards focus on key concepts in mathematics, literacy, science, social studies, and 21st Century skills.


The most important topics are multiplication, division, and fractions, which are the building blocks for many skills, such as percentages, that students will learn in later grades. Students also need to master these topics to be ready for algebra and advanced math, so it is essential to get a good start.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Multiply and divide up to 10 × 10 and know the times tables from memory.

  • Solve word problems by using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

  • Begin to multiply numbers that have more than one digit (e.g., multiply 9 × 80).

  • Understand fractions and how they relate to the familiar system of whole numbers (e.g., recognize that the fraction ½ lies on the number line between the whole numbers 0 and 1; recognize that 3⁄1 and 3 are the same number).

  • Develop reasoning in regard to shapes and their attributes (e.g., shapes that share an attribute, such as those with four sides, fit into a category called quadrilaterals).

  • Find perimeter and area of shapes and relate area to multiplication (e.g., why is the number of square feet for a 9-foot-by-7-foot room given by the product 9 × 7).

Math Resources for Parents

English Language Arts & Literacy

This is a pivotal year for your child as he or she learns to read with fluency and confidence. By practicing with learning-to-read strategies, your child will reliably be able to make sense of multi-syllable words in books. He or she will come to appreciate that words have meanings that are not literal (e.g., a piece of cake) and have relationships to other words (e.g., company and companion). Your child will be able to read increasingly challenging stories and books and build knowledge about the world around him or her. By the end of the year, students will write clear sentences and paragraphs about a range of topics by drawing on an expanded vocabulary.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Compare the most important points and key details presented in two books about the same topic.

  • Independently conduct short research projects that build knowledge about various topics.

  • Ask and answer questions about information he or she hears from a speaker or while participating in classroom discussions; and offer appropriate elaboration and details that build on what others have said.

  • Read stories and poems aloud fluently, without pausing to figure out what each word means.

  • Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words, such as “something’s fishy” and “cold shoulder.”

  • Spell correctly and consult a dictionary to clarify the meanings of words.


In third grade, students use their advancing understanding and skills to study the interactions in earth systems, environments, humans, and the designed world. They begin to formulate answers to questions such as: “How do equal and unequal forces on an object affect the object? How can the impact of weather-related hazards be reduced? How do organisms vary in their traits? What happens to organisms when their environment changes? How can magnets be used?” Third grade students use and develop models and organize data when investigating how different entities and systems interact and influence behaviors, reactions, and traits of various organisms.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion or to predict future motion.

  • Develop models of the life cycles of various plants and animals to identify commonalities and differences.

  • Explore how plants, animals, and environments of the past are similar to or different from current plants, animals, and environments.

  • Organize and use data to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season and to describe climates in different regions of the world.

Social Studies

In third grade, students study how and why people move from one place to another with the theme “Immigration and Migration.” Students look at the geographic, political, and cultural reasons that people move to a new place as well as what they experience during the transition. They understand that a society is a complex and changing place shaped by laws and the civic virtues of the citizens who live there.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Compare individual cultural traits to those of other diverse groups and the treatment of various groups of people in the past to the present.

  • Describe how rules and laws impact society.

  • Explore a variety of career options and the education required for them.

  • Use geographic tools to explain how the characteristics of a place might impact migration.

  • Investigate historical patterns by focusing on the cause and effect of events within the history of Iowa and the United States.

  • Use deliberative and democratic procedures to take action to address local, regional, national, or global problems.

21st Century Skills

Your child will continue to practice fitness skills and begin to understand the long-term benefits of being physically active. Students will learn to accept constructive criticism, strive to complete high-quality work, and collaborate with classmates. They will explore concepts related to good financial decision-making and responsible citizenship.

Examples of Your Child’s Work at School:

  • Use technology (e.g., pedometers, Wii physical activity games) to improve fitness and have fun.

  • Identify opportunities for leadership and service in the classroom, school, state, and nation.

  • Apply prior knowledge of technology to learning how to use new technologies/software.

  • Identify and organize materials needed for a task.

  • Explain the difference between short-term and long-term financial goals and why it is important to have both.

Source: Iowa Core Parent Guides from the Iowa Department of Education.
Read the Iowa Core Parent Guide (English) and Iowa Core Parent Guide (Spanish).
Read the complete standards on the Iowa Core website.