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Introducing Fractions

January 6, 2012

Looking for a way to introduce fractions to your students?  Start very concrete.  Make fractions as real as possible.

One way is to cut up a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar to get the idea that fractions have to be equal pieces.  If you cut it into to unequal pieces and give the smaller of the two pieces to one student and keep the larger piece.  That’s half, right?

Your students will be anything but quiet about the unfairness.  It is a great opportunity to explain that fractional pieces must be equal pieces. Then, of course, you’ll have to give everyone 1/2 of a Hershey’s!
Playing Pizza Fractions with young students is a good way to introduce basic concepts.
Using Fraction Circles or Bars is another great way to allow students to explore equivalent fractions.
Fraction Stax allow students to see how different fractions can be equivalent.  There are a variety of products that help students explore and develop an understanding of fractions through ETA/Cuisenaire.
Fraction Bars – building their own fractions on this interactive games.
One way that I’ve used to make fractions hands-on and assessable to many students is by cutting out construction paper circles.  Then I’ve had them cut the circles into equal pieces so they will end up with 10 circles cut into:
  • halves
  • thirds
  • fourths
  • fifths
  • sixths
  • sevenths
  • eighths
  • ninths
  • tenths

They mount them on another piece of paper and label the fractions with the correct spelling.After they are all done, have them make some observations and you may want to ask questions like:

  • What happens to the pieces as the bottom number (the denominator) for each fraction gets bigger?  Everyone knows that as we count the higher number has more.  But that does apply with fractions.  Can they explain why, in their own words?
  • Why is a piece that is 1/10 smaller than a piece that is 1/3? They need to really look at the pieces.  1/10 is smaller because the same circle is cut into 10 pieces not 3.
  • Are any pieces the same size, even though the fraction name is different? You want them to notice that 3/6 is the same as 1/2.

Having them write down their observations helps them to reflect on their work and internalize it.  Great activity – I will definitely do this again!

From addition support and more activities for students that need more practice, try these websites:
  • Step by step instruction for how to add fractions.    This site also has worksheets for a variety of skill levels.’
  • Here’s a goofy game to apply your students understanding of fractions.  This only covers approximating fractions for the numerator but it is a fun way to practice.
  • Have your students make their own fractions by typing in a fraction, the computer then makes a graphic representing the fraction typed in. They also have a basic fraction game to identify fractions.

Have fun!

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