If you’re thinking about fractions, you might be a 5th grade teacher… Thanks to the Common Core State Standards, fifth grade now throws the wildest fraction party on the block! I taught 6th grade math back when that was fraction central, and I learned 3 key things along the way. They have been just applicable in the 5th grade classrooms I am working in now…Teaching Fractions is important work!
1. Kids have to be developmentally ready to grasp fraction concepts. A wise math coach once told me this as I was about 7,354,815 graphic organizers deep- into helping the last stragglers in my class to “get” common denominators. Her point was an important one. For those students who were struggling, a better use of time would have been working with equivalent fractions longer. What good is renaming 1/3 to 9/27 if you don’t realize you are doing it because they are equivalent?? Aha!
2. Fraction Number Sense Matters. Which fraction is greater? How do you know? Order them on a number line. Is it closer to 0, 1/2 or 1? These conversations need to continue ALL YEAR. As soon as we abandon conversations that deepen number sense, we lose the meaning of the work.
3. Don’t ditch the concrete. Fraction strips, fraction circles, virtual manipulatives, drawings… These help kids understand what they are doing when they manipulate (or even just talk about) fractions. For as long as possible, encourage students to create visual models to show their thinking. When work with fractions becomes abstract later, they will have these experiences to reference.