Those Scary Fractions!
Students struggle with fractions. Every year I hope it will be better. I try to encourage students to embrace and learn to love FRACTIONS, after all, fractions are what make the world fair. 🙂
Fractions allow you and me to share a piece of chocolate. 3 friends can split the tab.
My high school students will often say, “Mrs. Whitaker, you should have seen me in 4th grade. I was a math whiz…that is until we started doing fractions!” Or, “I loved math until fractions.”
I recently read an article in Scientific American: “Fractions: Where It All Goes Wrong!” Here’s a excerpt from the article:
Fifth graders’ fraction knowledge predicts high school students’ algebra learning and overall math achievement, … Moreover, in a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Algebra 1 teachers in the US, most rated as “poor” their students’ knowledge of fractions and rated fractions as the second greatest impediment to their students mastering algebra (second only to “word problems”).
So what’s the solution? How do we reduce the fear of fractions so that students can master them and confidently move forward in math?
Allowing students to grapple with problems that require the use of fractions to solve could help with this issue. Problems like….”How can 3 kids can share 1/2 of a pizza?”….and, then, “How much of the original (whole) pizza did each child eat?” Maybe division of fractions would make more sense. It has to make more sense than the rule that most kids learn: “Keep, flip, multiple.” Procedures like this just make math seem like a list of random, mysterious rules that some people get and some don’t!
Parents, you can fight the Fear of Fractions at home!
- Practice fractions while computing the TIME it takes to make a trip…..How many minutes until we are half way there?
- HALF a recipe just for fun! It’s tricky to find 1/2 of 2/3, but, oh, it will help a struggling student understand those scary fractions!
- Measure anything and everything! Which is longer? By how much? What’s 1/2 the length? 3/4 of the length?
- Fruity Fractions: Did you know that bananas divide into thirds? Or, slice a apple sideways to see its five sections!
- Read! Yes, there are some great books that involve fractions at your local library! Here are two books that provide an intro to fractions that I enjoy (and some that we use at MathTree): Full House: An Invitation to Fractions (Dayle Ann Dodds) and The Wishing Club (Donna Jo Napoli).
It is these types of experiences that MathTree works to produce at our camp, MathTree Roots. Campers firm up and fill in gaps on the basics of whole number addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division AND lay a foundation for understanding fractions…not just “doing fractions”! We lead campers into the algorithms of working with fractions instead of just throwing the procedures at them to memorize. We play games, compare quantities, chop play dough, read stories, measure, and work group challenge problems. Campers see their need for fractions, build math confidence and as a result the “fear” of fractions begins to disappear. #NoFearFractions #OneChildAtATime
Watch a bit of a MathTree Roots campers working together…