Today I have invited Jenny from Little Vikings Learning to share with us one of her favorite ways to teach fractions.
Fractions are one of my favorite math concepts to teach because they are so easily seen in the everyday world around us and I find that kids already instinctively understand fractions in the real world; we just have to help them connect the numbers to the reality. Easy Peasy.
I always start with the most basic concepts: what is a fraction, what is it called, what does it look like in the world, and what does it look like in numbers. Pro tip:tackle these concepts during snack time because their mouths are full (no talking) and they’ll listen to new concepts easier. I start by reading the book “Eating Fractions” by Bruce Mcmillan BEFORE my students start eating. As a class we then look at our whole snack item (be that a bun, banana, strawberry, etc) and show our whole unit to the people sitting near us. We then get to eat half of it and compare our half to someone else’s half. We make sure to note that half a banana is not the same size as half of a strawberry.
I then give the kids fruit and plastic knives. We take pictures of the fruit (or we have some already printed out) of a whole, half, quarter, etc. This means I let kids cut fruit with knives. They love it...passionately. Put the pictures of your cut up fruit on the board. Use the half as the anchor for kids that struggle with the concept of denominator/numerator. Label the half in words and numbers. Most kids can easily recall a half and visually refer to it as “1 of 2 parts”. They can use this idea of “number I have of so many parts” to write fractions numerically.
I try to let each kid take pictures of their own fruit and then we’ll print the pictures for them to mount on a piece of paper. This can easily become their personal anchor chart in a math notebook. If printing is not easy, I’ve also called it a “fraction dissection lab” and had them write up “lab notes” that were hand drawn pictures of their fruit cut into fractions and labeled.
Let them experiment with making equal parts of lots of possible denominators. (If you want to make sure they are equal, model by telling someone you’ll give them half of your fruit and then cut it hugely unequally in your favor. They will be outraged and you can then remind them that fractions must be equally sized bits.)
Finally let them try to combine their fruit with someone else’s fruit. Can you combine half of a bun and half of a banana? Why not? What happens when you take half of a banana and a third of a banana? How would you talk about something like this? I have always found that my students start to explain the concept of common denominators without having ever heard of it before because it makes since to them visually after this activity.
Have fun playing with fruit and nailing those basic but essential fractional concepts. For more hands-on games that practice adding common denominator fractions you can check out this item in my TPT store.