Tag Archive for fractions

A different approach to teaching fractions

Fractions have an unenviable reputation of being difficult to teach.  Although most students have extensive practice shading in parts of a rectangle and counting pieces of pie, many students still lack a conceptual knowledge of fractions. In a multiple choice question asking Year 9 students to estimate the nearest correct answer to  11/12 + 7/8, only a minority of students correctly answered 2. The most popular answers were 19 and 20.  It seems that for many students fractions are a confusing nightmare, but why?

Mastering fractions requires a change in thinking about numbers. Moving from the whole number counting system to fractions (also known as rational numbers, i.e. numbers which are not whole numbers) takes students beyond their existing concept of whole numbers which are used to represent the number of things, to a more powerful number concept that can be used to describe not just whole things, but parts of things.  Read more

Learning to think

In an era that emphasizes the need for “deep understanding” in learning, it’s alarming that most of the students I meet requiring tutoring are totally reliant two ineffective strategies to find an answer – 1) guess and hope, or 2) don’t even try – that way you can’t get it wrong. Until recently my typical strategy would be to identify areas of  misconceptions,  and make students aware of what they needed to know to correct their knowledge of basic mathematical concepts . I stressed the importance of reasoning over guessing, and provided students with opportunities to practice and apply their new-found knowledge.  I figured I was helping them acquire the “deep understanding”  they had previously missed out on, and that this newly acquired knowledge would improve both their self-confidence and their motivation.

It didn’t work  very well. Read more

Over 20 of the best online fraction teaching resources

Attack fraction frustration with this hand-picked selection of the best  fraction resources on the web.   They have all passed the selection criteria of providing easily and clearly understandable accurate explanations of fraction operations, and/or providing effective practice opportunities.   The list includes interactive sites for visualizing fractions, and  games and worksheets.


Most of the games in this list do not involve timed activities, as time induced stress often often reduces performance  resulting in a frustrating and discouraging experience.  Game activities which do rely on timed activities should only be attempted by students who are already confident of their number skills. Read more