My fourth grade crew has been exploring fractions for the past two weeks. Students have been making some amazing connections between what they’ve learned before and what they’re currently experiencing. Last year the same group of students added and subtracted fractions with unlike denominators. The process to find the sum and difference was highlighted and that’s what students prioritized. That was last year. Although the process was and still is important, this year’s focus in on application. How do students apply their fraction computation skills in different situations? That takes a different skill set. Being able complete a simple algorithm doesn’t necessarily help students read a problem, identify what’s needed and find the best solution. More so, I feel like the application and strategy piece trumps the actual algorithm process at this stage.
So, I brought out a fraction recipe problem from last year.
Similar to last year, students had to change the recipe based on the amount of muffins needed. Unlike last year, I didn’t introduce the fraction multiplication or division algorithm. I had students work in groups and document their strategy to find a solution.
Students had to indicate whether the number of muffins increased or decreased, by how much and how to change each ingredient. The group conversations were fantastic. Groups had a brief conference with me to discuss their strategy once they arrived at a solution.
The conversations that occurred during my 1:1 meetings with student groups were beneficial. Students took what they wrote as a strategy and elaborated with different examples. I’m thinking that students will write in their math journals about their experience tomorrow. I’m assuming that this will also help transition students towards understanding why the fraction algorithms work.