A familiarity of math terms helps a child answer problems correctly. If a question asks for the dividend to be identified and the child doesn't know what a dividend is, he'll probably get that question wrong.

It's also helpful to know the terms because they are universal. Whether a child is taking a test at school, a standardized test or a college entrance exam, the terms remain the same.

Plus, a knowledge of the terms will make the child feel smart. This provides a good foundation of math confidence that hopefully will carry over into middle and high school.

As a parent or grandparent, you can help by reacquainting yourself with the terms elementary-age students are expected to know.

Here are just a few:

Â· sum - the answer to an addition problem.

Â· difference - the answer to a subtraction problem.

Â· factors - numbers that are multiplied together. The factors of a number are all the whole numbers that can divide that number evenly. Children might be asked to identify the factors of a number. The factors of 10 are 1, 2, 5 and 10. Every number has at least two factors: 1 and itself. For example, the factors of 13 are 1 and 13.

Â· product - the answer to a multiplication problem.

Â· quotient - the answer of a division problem.

Â· divisor - the number by which the dividend is divided. In the problem 15 divided by 3 is equal to 5, 15 is the dividend, 3 is the divisor and 5 is the quotient.

Â· algorithm - a procedure for getting an answer.

Â· geometry - the study of shapes.

Â· horizontal lines - lines level with the horizon, the place where the earth and sky seem to meet. These lines run sideways.

Â· vertical lines - lines straight up from the horizon. These lines run up and down.

Â· oblique lines - lines that are neither horizontal nor vertical. These lines are slanted or diagonal.

Â· parallel lines - lines that go in the same direction and stay the same distance apart. Railroad tracks are a good example of this type of line.

Â· intersecting lines - lines that cross.

Â· perpendicular lines - lines that intersect, forming right angles. Children who have not learned about right angles may be taught to look for "square corners" where the lines intersect. If a square can be formed in the corner of the intersection, the lines are perpendicular.

Â· polygon - a shape that closes in an area with straight lines.

Â· perimeter - the distance around a polygon. If the polygon is a rectangle with a length of 3 centimeters and a width of 2 centimeters, the distance around that polygon is 3 cm + 3 cm (the two long sides) + 2 cm + 2 cm (the two short sides). The perimeter is 10 centimeters.

Â· circumference - the length of a curve. The perimeter of a circle is called its circumference.

Â· diameter - the distance across a circle through its center.

Â· radius - the distance from the center of a circle to its curve. The radius is half the diameter.

Children also should be familiar with terms about the divisions of time. Here are some of those terms:

Â· decade - a period of 10 years.

Â· century - a period of 100 years.

Â· millennium - a period of 1,000 years. Note the spelling of this word: two l's and two n's.

Â· contemporary - belonging to or living in the same period of time.

Â· annual - occurring once every year.

Â· centennial - 100th anniversary.

Â· simultaneously - at the same time.

Â· punctual - on time; prompt.

Â· continuous - going on without interruption.

These definitions were adapted from the Saxon Math 65 textbook and the A Beka Book Spelling, Vocabulary and Poetry 5 textbooks, both of which have proven invaluable this year in my fifth-grade classroom.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.