3 Relaxing Activities for Teaching Fractions
Relaxing is generally not the word that comes to mind when teaching fractions, but when you realize that is just a language issue, teaching it becomes a whole lot easier. Here are my 3 favorite relaxing activities for teaching fractions that offer plenty of opportunity to develop a child's language of fractions.
Sharing Fractions at the Royal Party
There is no better opportunity to introduce fraction than at party where one must share food. Students are mathematical aware of equality, and thus, you better not mess up sharing those cookies evenly between your kids. Anytime we are sharing, we should be intentional about using the language of fractions.
Here is half of the cake for you and half for me (I must be hungry). Do we both have the same amount? Or what about we have five friends. How can we give each person an equal piece?
There is a wonderful opportunity here for them to discover for themselves the answer. Don’t be tempted to rob them of this opportunity. It may take them a day or two to figure it out. Let them pick and choose the rods until they make the discovery for themselves.
When a child's main form of learning is trial and error, they lose the fear of failure, that is making an error. Errors are important part of discovery. They help us to notice and discover. Once they have made the discovery, we can then provide them the language to describe their discovery. "You gave Princess Tulip one fifth of the cake, and look everyone has the same amount. Point to one fifth of the cake."
When a child's main form of learning is trial and error,
they lose the fear of failure.
Introducing the language of fractions may sound intimidating, but Sonya from Arithmophobia No More breaks down the introduction of the language easy in this post. Sonya reminds us that fractions is really the inverse of multiplication and that makes understanding fractions easier.
The Fractional Fun of Science
Children need to know early that they are natural born scientist, and that is why I created this next activity. With this activity, it all begins with the beaker. First, the students fill the beakers with rods. The students then pour the beakers into the three flasks choosing how much they want in each flask.
Here you have an opportunity to connect with the student's observation. What do they observe? How much of the beak did the first flask receive? Once they articulate it in their limited language skills, you can provide them the more accurate language of fractions. "The first flask has five/sevenths of the beaker."
After students are familiar with the naming of fractions, students can begin the language of adding and subtracting fractions. You can even extend this activity to include discussing fraction of squares or fractions of cubes.
Of course, it is more fun when they discover those squares and cubes themselves before talking about those relationships. Take a look at this video below to see a young student using this activity to explore fractions of squares.
The Fraction Rod Race
This activity is a blast and there are endless opportunities to discover fractions. This game is also great for teaching factors, multiplication and division, but let’s focus on teaching fractions today.
In the rod race, each student picks two or more rods of assorted sizes. Let's say the student picks red to race against a purple. The student adds to the rod that is the shortest. Then keeps adding until it is no longer the shortest. Then whichever rod is the shortest goes next. If rods become tied, the students can pick whichever rod they want to go next.
There are two ways to end this game. You can end it whenever the students want to end it or you can place a constraint on the race like ending the race when it reaches the length of 3 orange rods. Watch this activity in action.
Throughout the activity, have the student make observations. What do they notice? Don't push for a particular observation because there is a lot to observe. When they do observe when red and purple tie and articulate it in their own words, provide the student with the language, "Two reds equal a purple or for every purple there are two reds. A red is half of purple. 2 halves of purple equal a purple."
Deepen the students awareness of equivalency by adding more than 2 rods to the race. If we added white to the purple and red race, the student can see how red is ½ of purple and 2 whites are also ½ of purple. Once students observe the many equivalent fractional relationships, you can challenge the students with adding and subtraction fractions with different denominators.
When you realize teaching fractions is just teaching a new language, you can relax and just cultivate their language by adding new words and phrases to their repertoire every day.
Alright, these activities teach way more than fractions, and that is why I included task cards in my packets to give you many ideas of all the learning opportunities available. Start racing those barnyard animals today with my free gift, The Barnyard Equivalent Fraction Race.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram because I heard there is going to be an Awesome Fraction giveaway sometime this week that will include PDL's Fraction Exploration for Cuisenaire Rods. Plus, I rock Instagram all day long with great lessons ideas using Cuisenaire Rods. You are going to want to follow me there for exclusive content.