How to Help with Math Homework: The Rounding Poem

by Jennifer Spirko

Rounding is a basic elementary-school mathematics skill. When rounding to the nearest 10, you look at the number to the right of the 10s. If that number is five or greater, round up to the next whole 10; if it is four or less, round down. For instance, round the number 242 down to 240, but round the number 376 up to 380. Teaching youngsters a simple poem can help them remember which numeral to look at and which way to round.

Say a Simple Rounding Poem

The *Rounding Poem* has a few variations. A typical example, used by Thomson Elementary School third-grade teacher Shannon Reeves, instructs students to “Find your number / Look right next door”; in other words, go one digit to the right. Then, the poem advises, “Four or less -- just ignore / five or more -- add one more.” Just 18 words in four lines, this brief poem is easy to memorize; reinforce it by reciting the poem as you help students work through rounding exercises.

Sing a Song of Rounding

Musically inclined students may prefer a song, such as one suggested by Tara Moore for the Paducah Independent School District’s tutoring guide to third-grade math. Set to the tune of *If You’re Happy and You Know It,* the first verse reminds students, “If it’s five or greater you go up,” and the second verse continues, “If it’s four or less leave it alone”; the song concludes, “Everything to the left stays the same.” Repetition reinforces memorization and hand claps help students stay engaged.

About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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