Second grade teachers in my school are starting their introductory unit on fractions next week. Generally students are introduced to fractions through manipulatives. Manipulatives, specifically pattern blocks, offer opportunities for students to play, explore and develop a deeper understanding of fractions. By second grade students have become accustomed to solving problems related to sharing. Splitting up a whole into unit pieces is part of the first grade curriculum. From there students are asked to adjust their partitioning into equal sized parts.
Pattern blocks can be useful for introducing fractions although it shouldn’t be the only representation. One of the challenges I see during fraction instruction occurs when students are given a different representation (word form, number line, mixed numbers, etc.) of a fraction and asked to find or create fractional parts. Students often ask, where’s the picture of the shape that I’m used to? Fractions can be represented in many ways, such as through number lines, objects, shapes, and a variety of linear representations. I find that students tend to benefit from being able to see a variety of representations of a mathematical concept. A number line can be especially helpful in introducing fractional parts. Keeping that in mind, I’m encouraging our teachers to use a variety of forms to showcase fraction representation. Possible student questions related to this can be found in the slide show below and in this shared sheet.
How do you introduce fractions?