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Not a Four Letter Word
Fraction is not a four letter word! Then why does it cause so many teachers and students to groan when that is the math topic of the day? Fractions are everywhere. Measurements, tools, music, sports, percentages, statistics, prices, food, and I could go on and on. We use fractions daily. So why such a sour face when I say the word?
My thoughts are we don't mean what our facial expressions or words say. We don't mind using fractions as apart of our daily lives. We understand that if something is 25% off, all that has to be done is to divide by 4 and that is how much I save (1/4 of the cost). We know that if I am doubling a recipe that calls for 1/3 of a cup of sugar, I would need to put in 2/3 of a cup. We know that if the 5/16" wrench is too big, I need to try the 1/4" wrench.
But what we don't like…is the use of fractions without connection. What is 11/17 plus 3/7? Who cares? When am I going to need to add two fractions like that together? Rarely ever, but this is what we sometimes do to our kids in school. We make them practice problems that do not have any connection to using the skill in the real world.
So what can we do differently to help students connect to fractions?
- Create Scenarios - Start at the concrete level. Give students scenarios that apply the use of fractions. For example, the story of Laura and Mary in the Little House in the Big Woods. Laura tells, of her and Mary, going to Mrs. Peterson's house and each gets a cookie for the walk home. On the way home Laura ate half of her cookie, and Mary ate half of hers. They both saved the other half for little sister Carrie. They wanted to divide the cookies evenly to share with Carrie. Laura felt what they were doing was not quite fair, but did it anyway. Laura and Mary were having trouble dividing two cookies between three people. Could your third grade students help find a way to divide the cookies evenly? (This is just one example.)
- Imbed Experiences - Help students develop experiences with fractions that occur in our daily lives. See how many times a day you can incorporate a fraction into instructional day. ex. Reading time is half over.
- Positive Math-Speak - And lastly, turn that frown upside down when talking about fractions with your students. No negative math-speak coming from you. Generally what a teacher embraces, so does their students.