Pieces & Parts: Teaching Fractions

by guest blogger Joann Waskik from TheGateway.org Five out of four people have trouble with fractions —Comedian Steven Wright Apparently, Steven Wright and I are kindred spirits. Math was my Achilles’ heel in middle and high school, and to this day […]

by guest blogger Joann Waskik from TheGateway.org

Five out of four people have trouble with fractions

—Comedian Steven Wright

Apparently, Steven Wright and I are kindred spirits. Math was my Achilles’ heel in middle and high school, and to this day I cringe when measuring objects that stubbornly refuse to measure to the exact quarter inch. Hence, I am an excellent cautionary tale for students who moan about what useful purpose fractions can possibly serve in real life. Tell them that their window shades and blinds will fit correctly. So there!

Fractions, of course, are enormously important and are all around us, every day. Younger students learn that fractions are simply pieces or sections of something whole; cutting whole virtual or real pizzas into pieces is a favorite classroom visual aid. Who doesn’t want ½ of a pizza or a chocolate bar, instead of ¼? Intermediate students learn that percentages are another way of representing fractions, as are decimals. In each case, fractions, decimals and percentages represent something that isn’t exactly a whole number. Over time, students will learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions. They will also reduce fractions and learn how to work with mixed and improper fractions.

If you’re on the lookout for them, fractions are everywhere in daily life. We use them while cooking (need to double a recipe?), interpreting surveys (“four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum”!), splitting the check for a group dinner, figuring out discounts on sale items (25 percent off!), and measuring items accurately to the nearest 1/16 or 1/32 of an inch. Musicians use fractions when they read music, with scores comprised of whole, half, quarter and eighth notes. Fractional concepts can even take a philosophical bent, as in this quote by War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy:

A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.

All of the resources featured below are correlated to the Common Core; the Gateway allows users to search for educational materials by standard. Also, be sure to check out the many more resources on fractions that will be featured throughout the week on our Gateway Twitter and Facebook pages.

Fractions
Grades: 1–5
In this activity, students learn about fractions and how they are used in everyday life. I’m a firm believer that using visuals is the best way to teach fractional concepts, and this SMART board resource includes a hands-on component for students to help reinforce what they’ve learned. This activity was produced by SMART Technologies, developer of the SMART Board and other interactive displays and integrated solutions for education and business.

Bargain Town, USA
Grade: 6–8
This lesson is a real-world application of the relationship between fractions, decimals and percents. I like how students examine different types of price tags to determine the best discounts and values on their virtual shopping trip—great way to tie classroom learning to real life applications. This lesson is a product of Beacon Learning Center, an online educational resource and professional development center that offers standards-based resources and professional development activities.

Colorful Solutions
Grade: 9–12
Fractions? Who needs ’em? Actually, we all do! Students add and subtract fractions with like denominators in real-world situations. Problem solving involves using fractions with common denominators utilizing the “Think, Solve and Explain” format. This lesson is offered by Beacon Learning Center, an online educational resource and professional development center.

Peggy’s companion column: 
Summer Slide Busters Week Eight – I Think It’s More Complicated Than That!

Resources mentioned in this post: 

Posted by WeAreTeachers Staff

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