Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fractions: Moving Towards a Conceptual Understanding

Teaching fractions sometimes poses some challenges in the math classroom. Just as students become more comfortable with manipulating whole numbers, we then introduce the world of fractions to them. At first, students might overgeneralize their understanding of whole numbers to fractions. This comes to light when a student incorrectly responds that 1/2 + 1/3 = 2/5. Think about why this would make sense to them?!

Developing conceptual understanding of fractions is key. It is important for students to see that fractions fit into several categories. Fractions can be part of a region, part of a set, found on a number line, or seen in the area model. Ensuring that students see fractions represented in many different ways early on can help students build a stronger foundational understanding.

Using literature is a way to hook and engage students. Two books I have used to introduce fraction concepts are:

The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Fractions Book

Give Me Half!

After instruction and plenty of modeling, I created an activity for my students to do where they practice representing fractions in a variety of ways. Once students grasp the general understanding, this activity can be used in a math center for students to recycle and review these key skills.

The gist of the activity is to pull a domino from a bag. That domino now represents a fraction. Dominoes are a great math tool and can be differentiated. Once students are comfortable with the traditional set that goes up to 6, look at these. Double 12s! Now students can practice up to twelfths.

The students then roll a number cube and match it to a chart that has numbered tasks similar to these: write the fraction in word form, show the fraction on a number line, or show your fraction as part of a set. Do you have any old stickers piling up? I allow students to use these when making a part of a set. They love it!

The activity can be found in Show, Just Don't Tell: Fractions in my TpT store. 

Show, Just Don't Tell: Fractions (TpT)

Here are two other fraction products available that I use with my students. The first one is Here's the Answer...What's the Question ~ Fraction Task Cards. Get students thinking about how one fraction can be represented in many different ways. The second product is Cubing with Fractions: A Differentiated Learning Task to Engage, Learn, Assess. Cubing is a great differentiation strategy where students can be targeting the same skill but at their own readiness levels.

Check out these previous posts for more ideas to use when teaching fractions. Grab some freebies!

What have you found that works well with your students when teaching them fractions?