I love fractions, though they can be conceptually difficult for elementary kids to understand. They are often just starting to grasp whole numbers and place value and now we are talking about parts of whole numbers. It can be tricky for them to negotiate. And we know that having a strong conceptual understanding of fractions at this age is critical for adding on new fraction and decimal knowledge.
So I try to make fractions as real as possible. So I start with showing them everyday fractions that they are familiar with, but I don’t even use the term fraction. I just show them a candy bar and say “How many candy bars do I have?” And they all agree that I have one. Then I ask “If I want to share it, how can I share 1?”
That often leads to fun and engaging discussions, including why I would even want to share my chocolate? But most students understand that I can break it in half. So I ask them how I would write half. I will write the word half on the board and someone will also say 1/2. So I lead a discussion on what they think the 1 and the 2 represent. Then I tell them that this is a fraction.
I then split my chocolate bar into 2 pieces BUT UNEQUAL. You should see the looks on some of their faces. That then leads to talking about the pieces need to be equal.
I then show different real life objects, like bananas, which is good to include at the beginning so they can start thinking about fractions as parts of a group and a whole. I talk about if I ate one banana, what fraction did I eat?
You can easily use items in your classroom. Here is a picture of the 7 checkers pieces I used and displayed on the whiteboard. I labelled each fraction, and we talked about that there are 4/7s that are red and 3/7s that are black, with 7/7s all together. The word abiotic is a random part of our discussion.
That usually concludes our discussion for the day. At this point the students go to their math stations, which are different activities that are about what we have learned before. When I am introducing a new concept with the whole class, the stations are on previous concepts (in this case probability and arrays), so that they aren’t overwhelmed on the first day and I don’t have to manage so much new learning.
If you are interested, I have a fraction slide show that contains 26 different real life fractions, including pizza and brownies!
– Thanks for reading! Evil Math Wizard