During the past few weeks my students have been studying fractions. I feel like the class is making a decent amount of progress. The class has moved from identifying fraction parts to adding the pieces to find sums. Pattern blocks have been especially helpful with adding fractions. I feel like students are becoming more confident with the computation and we haven’t used the word common denominator yet. I don’t want students to by relying too much on just the algorithm. Throughout this process I’m noticing that students are struggling with fraction word problems. Students are having trouble identifying what the fractions represent in the problems.
Yesterday we had a class meeting to discuss this topic. This fit in well with a book that I’ve been reading. Chapter 8 emphasizes how to teach fraction concepts and computation. The chapter begins with misconceptions and the different meanings associated with fractions. The class reviewed all the different ways that they view fractions. We documented the class ideas on an anchor chart.
Do you notice any trends? The class looked at the list and had no complaints. This is how they visualize fractions. When asked how they use fractions they came back to this list and didn’t have anything to add. Keep in mind that this is from a group of third graders. The next step in the class conversation was to discuss different ways that fractions are represented in problems.
I started with part-to-whole representations. Most kids were familiar with this type of model. After all, students have been using this model for the past week and most of last year. I then moved onto how fractions can be used to measure objects. Students nodded their heads in agreement and asked questions as I went through the other representations. Connections were made through this process. Students created examples of each representation in their math journals.
Students are planning to revisit the word problems that I discussed earlier in this post. They’ll be reading the question and match the context to the representation. I’m looking forward to having students use this strategy moving forward.