Kids have a difficult time understanding fractions. If you’re teaching fractions to kids, here are 5 tips to help them understand fractions.
With less time in the classroom focused on teaching and more on testing, it’s hard to help your students understand basic concepts.
Let’s face it. One of the hardest concepts to teach can be fractions.
When it comes to teaching fractions, there are three main reasons kids struggle to learn them.
- Not understanding
- Not enough practice
This article will explain how to avoid those pitfalls with your students and give you 5 tips to help you teach fractions.
Let’s look at the common problems listed above.
First, kids don’t naturally understand fractions. They have to be taught.
Often, schools or teachers breeze through fractions like kids should catch on quickly. That doesn’t always happen, and kids are left confused.
When kids don’t understand fractions, they start to make their own guesses about how they work. Guess what? They’re often wrong.
This leads to misconceptions of fractions. For elementary kids, one big one is the difference between the numerator and the denominator.
Many kids think the whole is on top and the part is on the bottom. With that misconception, they’re going to have a hard time converting and even doing simple math with fractions.
Finally, the reason kids struggle with fractions is that they don’t practice enough. The topic is introduced, they do a homework sheet, then they move on to the next topic.
As adults, we don’t remember something that we don’t use often, so how can we expect kids to?
The rest of this article will give you the tools to help your kids understand and practice fractions in a fun way.
1. Use Manipulatives in Teaching Fractions
There’s no doubt about it: kids love manipulatives. It’s like playing with toys to them. But it’s also a great way to teach fractions.
There are many fraction manipulatives that you can buy. These usually are wooden or plastic pieces that fit together into a whole shape. The shapes can be rectangles, triangles, or circles.
If your budget is tight though, just use paper circles. Cut them into as many pieces as you want to teach your fraction concept.
Once the kids have the manipulatives, you can walk them through all different types of fractions. They can have two different manipulatives to practice adding or subtracting. This can also help with improper fractions too.
The point here is to engage the kids in learning fractions by giving them something to do with their hands. It also helps them to visualize which we’ll talk about next.
2. Use Visuals to Teach Fractions
When it comes to fractions, visualization is critical. If you don’t understand what 1/3 is, seeing a rectangle cut into three pieces can be a breakthrough. Manipulatives are a great way to visualize fractions, but they’re not the only one.
It can be tempting to write a bunch of fraction problems on the board or print them on a worksheet. This is not the best way to teach fractions though unless your kids have already had a lot of exposure.
Have the kids draw out the fractions you write numerically or print pictures of the fractions on their worksheets. Even though printing a fraction picture feels like giving them the answers (if a pizza is cut into thirds, how many pieces does it have?), it will provide them with a strong foundation in fractions.
Another great way to help them visualize fractions is to use technology.
3. Use Technology to Teach Fractions
Technology is a great tool when teaching anything, but it’s especially helpful with fractions.
You can use this fraction calculator to help your students check their work and to remember the rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions.
There are also many online games that can give kids the practice they need to master fractions.
The internet is also full of videos that illustrate fractions. This can be another great way to help your kids visualize the principles of fractions.
Let’s not forget all the resources you as a teacher can get on fractions too. There are many worksheets, manipulatives, and tutorials you can use to help you improve your teaching of fractions.
4. Use Games in Teaching Fractions
Like we said before, if you can make fractions fun, it will be a lot easier for you to teach them.
As we mentioned in the previous section, you can use internet games to help your kids practice fractions. It’s a great way to use your computer lab time or an awesome homework assignment.
If your computer time is limited though, you can have your students play games in the classroom.
One simple game is to give each student a fraction manipulative and have the kids pair up. With their two sets, they work together to solve different problems you’ve posted on the board.
Another game could be a fraction hunt. Can they find parts of a whole in your classroom? Example: a box of pencils, pets in a tank, even students in the class.
You can always find more games posted online. Just make sure to keep fractions fun.
5. Use Strategic Instruction to Teach Fractions
While all the tools we’ve mentioned are great ways to teach fractions, you still have to have a clear plan of what you want your students to learn.
Just like you post your classroom objectives on the board to meet state requirements, map out your goals for fractions.
Teachers know you can’t throw everything at kids at the same time, so be slow and careful when you’re teaching fractions.
First, write down your plan for introducing fractions. Then list the activities you want to use.
Next, write down how you want to introduce adding fractions. Then list the activities you want to use.
You’ll continue this pattern with subtraction, multiplication, and division.
On your calendar mark how many days you want to spend on each topic. Make sure you plan in review days as well since fractions can be tricky. This will give the kids plenty of practice.
The key to teaching fractions is to have a plan and follow it.
Now that you’ve mastered teaching fractions in the classroom, it’s time to move on to other topics. Check out other these great education articles.