Fractions are not always an easy subject for children to learn, and they are not any easier for teachers to teach. Fractions can be a difficult concept, and the student who does not learn the basics will have great difficulty mastering concepts that are more advanced. An easy way for teachers to help students learn fractions is to make the lessons fun.
One way of teaching fractions that will get a child’s attention is to use food and kitchen items. These are familiar items for the child, so it puts fractions into terms they can easily understand.
Measuring cups come in a whole and fractions of a whole. Students can use the smaller cups to scoop beans or beads and pour them into the 1-cup measuring cup. This allows them to see, for example, that four 1/4 measuring cups equals 1 cup. They can also see how fractions relate to each other by pouring 1/4 cups into 1/2 cups or pouring 1/8 cups into 1/2 cups.
Many brands of chocolate bars are scored to make easily breakable sections. Give students chocolate bars, and have them count the number of sections. Explain that there are, for example, sixteen sections in one chocolate bar so one section is equal to one-sixteenth. You can take this further by telling them you want to break it into two equal pieces, and then asking how many sections would need to be in each piece. This leads to one-half of 16 being 8. Students can continue dividing the candy bar for one-fourth and one-eighth.
Food items may not always be practical, but there are other creative ways to teach fractions.
Give students strips of construction paper that are the same length. Have them glue one strip to a sheet of poster board or a larger sheet of construction paper. Have them fold a strip in half and glue this next to the first strip. Do this with thirds, fourths, fifths, etc., and have students discuss things how many sections there are for each folded strip. By gluing them side-by-side, students will be able to see how two halves or three thirds are the same size as one whole.
This can also be used to help students understand the basics of multiplying fractions. For example, to make fourths, students fold the strip in half, and then fold each half into half. One-half of one-half is one-fourth.
Use words and word puzzles to help students grasp fractions. Create a sentence or two that students have to decode. Another idea is to have students decode clues for a crossword puzzle, with the decoded word being the answer that goes into the puzzle. For example, for the word “one,” the clue to decode it could be “the first one-third of our + the second half of done.”
Use alternate names to explain how fractions work. For example, you could explain to students that one strawberry is written as 1/strawberry. Then students can add strawberries, as in 2/strawberries + 3/strawberries = 5/strawberries. This helps emphasize the denominator, and how the denominator does not change when fractions are added.
Going a step farther, you could explain that 2/strawberries cannot be added to 3/blueberries because strawberries and blueberries are different. To add them, you have to use a common denominator, like berries, which gives you 2/berries + 3/berries = 5 berries. As students grasp the berries idea, you can change it to numbers. If they start getting confused, simply say 2/berries + 3/berries instead of 2/9 + 3/9. Once they add the numerator, ask for the denominator, saying, “Now we have 5/berries, but instead of berries, we are using…” and point to the nine.
This is, by no means, a complete list of creative methods for teaching fractions. Regardless of the grade level, there are many techniques to help students grasp the concept of fractions. By taking the time to make instruction creative, and to put concepts into terms that are easily understood, teachers can turn fractions into fun.