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Beginning Fractions
by Gail Englert

A response to the question:

How do you teach beginning concepts of fractions?

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I am a student teacher in Perth, Western Australia. Would you be able to direct me to a site which has a Beginning Fraction Unit or at least 4 lesson plans. I am introducing a class to Fractions and I would be grateful if you could suggest a suitable site which might be able to generate some ideas for at least the first 4 weeks lessons.

Kind regards

Vicki

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Dear Vicki,

When students are introduced to abstract concepts and algorithms dealing with fractions prior to a firm understanding of what the fractions actually mean, and what happens to them when operations are performed on them, the students have no basis for understanding what is happening, and it all becomes a big "magic trick" to the students.

Instead, time should be devoted to using a variety models of fractions (fraction squares, fraction circles, cuisinaire rods, pattern blocks, etc.) to be sure students understand what area models of fractions "look" like, so they will begin to construct a mental picture of what the fractions are. They should compare the fractions using models, discovering what the numerator and denominator mean, what an equivalent fraction really is, and what happens when the "wholes" are different sizes (are all halves in the world the same size?) Then they can start to make generalizations about fractions. This same exploration can be used for fractions of groups, which have a different meaning from fractions of regions.

When students have a solid understanding of what fractions are, they can begin to combine them to find sums, and subtract them to find differences, but still using models... Later, when students have an idea what the reasonable answers are, these concrete examples can be connected to abstract algorithms and concepts, and it will be more sensible to the students.

Here are some sites that might help you:

Cynthia Lanius' fraction site (this is EXCELLENT)
http://math.rice.edu/~lanius/Patterns/

Math Forum Internet Mathematics Library: Fractions
http://mathforum.org/library/topics/fractions/

-Gail, for the T2T service

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