Some young learners find fractions really tricky to grasp. We’ve all had the child who, after you finish a unit on fractions and think you’ve done a great job, writes the numerator and the denominator the wrong way round. The secret is in making sure you don’t rush through the unit.
You need a structured approach to teaching your fraction unit; one that introduces the topic and then reinforces it with fun learning activities.
Equal and Unequal Parts of a whole
You want to begin with teaching your students to identify equal and unequal parts of a whole (this part is crucial to the early understanding of fractions).
Wholes and Halves
Then we need to name parts. Halves are the first fraction we deal with because it is used commonly among children, “Can I have half of your chocolate bar?” They need lots of hands on practice partitioning shapes into halves. Now I am anti freehand partitioning. After all, you have just taught your kids about equal and unequal parts. How confusing is it then for young learners to see fractions they have partitioned with unequal parts! It might be an extra step to teach them how to use a ruler but it’s a skill they need to learn anyway.
Introducing the fraction symbol at this point is way too early. As you would know, kids can really get the writing of fractions confused so it’s best to stick with writing 1 half rather than 1/2 at this early stage.
Don’t forget that kids need to understand what a whole is too.
Fourths is the next fraction we introduce. I say fourths rather than quarters because using the name fourths initially builds the understanding that fourths are four even parts. Children do need to be introduced to the term quarter but understanding what fourths represent first is important. Once they understand how to partition a shape into four equal parts then introduce the term quarters.
When we teach fractions we should not only focus on parts of a region we also need to extend children’s thinking to see that it is also parts of a collection – “Can I have a quarter of the sweets?”. We aren’t going to chop every sweet into quarters but rather divide the pile into four equal shares ( a bit of division here too).
Now depending on your curriculum and year level be it one or two, thirds (U.S.A.) or eights (Australia) will be introduced next.
The important thing with teaching fractions is to take it slow, use heaps of hands on activities and games and most importantly make it fun.
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