Real-World Activities for Teaching Fractions

For many elementary age children, fractions seem like a foreign language that they likely may never use in real life.  To challenge this thinking, we can use real-world activities that illustrate just how fractions help their parents, and how they will help them as they grow up.

  • Teach them to use the ruler. Rulers are really handy for teaching real-world applications for fractions.  Most of them are already divided into halves, fourths, eighths, even sixteenths.  It’s easy to show them that two halves are the same as one. . . that two fourths are the same as one half, and four fourths are the same as one, and so on.
  • Teach them to use measuring cups and spoons.  Bring lots of these dishes to class and give one measuring spoon and cup to each child.  Ask them to pour one cup of water into a tall glass. Now take guesses from the students:  How many half cups do they think it takes to fill a cup? How many quarter cups will it take?  How many one-eighth cups and one-third cups will it take?  Do the same with spoons:  How many half spoons does it take for one teaspoon, and so on?
  • You can build on the measuring cups and measuring spoons lesson by giving each student a copy of a recipe or two.  Ask the students to help you rewrite the recipe.  For instance, you could take a recipe that serves four people and tell the kids that you only want to serve half that number (or two).  Then ask how many of each item you’ll need if you take half of each.
  • Finally, you can use travel as a way of teaching fractions.  This one is more of a homework assignment.  Ask the children to count how many cars they pass on the way home from the school.  They write down this number.  Then ask them to write down how many are blue; how many red; how many white; how many yellow.  Finally, see if they can turn this into a fraction, reminding them that the color is the top number and the total number of cars is the bottom number.

These suggestions are not only fun ways to keep your students interested in fractions, but more importantly, they are ways to show them that fractions are applicable in real life.

For some of our fun games on fractions, you can visit these pages:

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Emily says:

    I think some of these ideas are fantastic. I personally love cooking and baking, so using measuring spoons or measuring cups is a great activity! Splitting the recipe in half (or doubling it) seems like a nice way to also incorporate operations on fractions. Perhaps towards the beginning of a unit, fractions can be compared with various amounts of water in a glass. The recipe adjustment could be assigned more towards the end of the unit, and could even involve different, more challenging amounts (such as 4/3 the recipe, or 2/3). I wonder, if with some manipulation, the idea of “recipe rewrite” could be made into a group project, with the end result being to test out the recipe.

  2. Rob says:

    Sounds like someone is having fun in the kitchen! Thanks Emily.

  3. Pam says:

    I am always looking for ways to incoporate real world activities into my lessons. Kids are more involved and interested if they can see a link to their world and the classroom activities.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I love the idea!

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.