Students often need extra practice with adding fractions, especially when they aren't technically learning about it any more....those fractions pop up in so many situations!
Teaching 6th grade math always seems to come with the need to review much of what students learned about in previous years, like:
Have you found this as well? Do students need to review these things at the grade level you teach?
Just to be sure I wasn't the only one thinking students always need some fraction review, I put a quick poll on Instagram:
So, with the idea of review and practice in mind, I have a quick, easyprep game for you, which you can actually use during your fraction addition unit. OR, you can use it as a center activity to keep reviewing fraction addition during the school year. This game is called "Make One." Students are dealt a hand of fraction cards, which you can access for free below, and their goal during the game is to find as many sets of fraction cards that add together to equal one that they possibly can. Preparing for the Game
As I said, the prep is quick. The PDF with the cards includes 36 fraction cards, which should be good for one group of 34 players; for 5 or more players, you may want to make 2 copies of each page to give you a deck of 72 cards.
To prep for the game:
Playing the Game
1) Deal 5 cards to each player.
2) Put the remaining cards face down in a pile, in the middle of the game area. 3) To begin playing, Player One puts down any combination of cards from their hand that total 1 when added, if they have any combinations. (Players may use as many cards as they’d like to reach 1).
4) Player One may then ask any other player for a specific card that could be used to ‘make one’ when added to a card (or cards) in his/her hand.
5) The game continues with each player taking their turns until a player ‘goes out’ by playing his/her last card, or until the cards in the middle pile are gone. Additional example of how cards can be used: Looking at the set of cards in the picture, we can see this player's hand of cards has 5/10, 1/4, 1/4, 4/8, and 1/20.
Keeping Score
Once a player 'goes out', players tally their scores:
You can access these Make One cards, as well as other fraction activities, by selecting the button below. I hope you can use these cards for some fraction practice and review! To Read Next:
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A Quick Way to Practice Fraction Concepts Any Time of YearI have a quick way for you to review fraction concepts throughout the entire school year! That way is..........use partner cards or grouping cards whenever you’d like to have students work together in random partners or groups. Before we get into the specifics of the grouping cards, let's just touch on grouping strategies for a moment and why I've created more grouping cards for randomized grouping. Grouping Strategies
In the book, Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics by Peter Liljedahl, he talks about the types of grouping strategies teachers might use:
So, rather than strategic grouping or allowing students to selfselect, the author recommends randomized grouping – more specifically, visibly randomized grouping, so students can see that the groups are truly random….not the teacher saying they were random. If you want to read more about grouping ideas, and haven’t already read this one, check it out – Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics. Using Partner Cards or Grouping Cards to Review Fraction Concepts
Ok, on to the actual grouping cards idea.
I know there might be some more 'fun' ways to group students, but I like to throw some content into the grouping process, just to use the grouping time a little more effectively. Why not use it to review concepts? I did this with equivalent expressions a few years back, and it was quite helpful  using the grouping cards gave students additional practice several times during the year. I've got three different sets of partner/grouping cards (which you can access below), to help students review fraction concepts. Reviewing Equivalent Fractions
This set of partner cards has 16 sets of 2 equivalent fractions, to randomly pair students. Just cut them, laminate (or print on card stock), and then hand them out.
Example:
Reviewing Fraction Representations
To review fraction representations, you can use these grouping cards that have fractions shown in four different ways:
Reviewing Mixed Numbers and Improper Fractions
These grouping cards have one improper fraction (fraction greater than one), and three mixed numbers that are equivalent to it, so students can review the various ways the numbers can be expressed.
For these, I used the same denominators for different sets, so students can’t just look at the denominator (like 4, in the picture) to find their group. Access the Fraction Partner Cards/Grouping Cards
So that’s it!
To sum up  you can use the partner cards/grouping cards ANY time throughout the year to keep bringing fraction concepts back and quickly review them. AND (added bonus)...you can use the cards as a matching activity in centers as well! You can grab these sets of grouping cards for free (along with 5 or 6 other free fraction resources) when you join my email community. Just select the button below! f you’re already part of my community, you can grab these from the free resource library here on the site. You should already have the password for that, but if you can’t find it, send me an email and let me know! To Read Next:
GCF (greatest common factor) and spending 'too much time' on math topics. These are the middle school math ideas I'm thinking about today.
There were times during the school year when I'd think I had spend too much time on a math topic….not because the kids seemed bored with it or anything like that, but because I had to get so many concepts covered that I was afraid I’d run out of time (I'm sure you know the feeling!). So, spending more time than I was “supposed to” occasionally stressed me out. But most of the time, I was glad I spent so much time on some concepts, even though I appeared to be “behind” when talking with other teachers about where we were in the curriculum.
For example, before a holiday break one year, we worked on finding GCF (greatest common factor). Prior to 6th grade, most of the students had only been taught one method to find GCF: listing out the factors.
Day 1 of GCF Review
On our first day back, we briefly reviewed the methods and then I had the students:
1) Partner up (using the equivalent expressions partnering cards for extra reinforcement of that concept!) and 2) Write short paragraphs to explain each method (and include their own examples).
Day 2 of GCF Review
The following day, with the same partners, the students started their GCF Footloose task cards. The task cards required students to:
BUT, as I listened to my students’ discussions, class after class, I decided that we definitely needed to finish the next day. And I definitely needed to continue to spend the same amount of time on topics that I had been spending, in all the different ways I employed, because what I heard from observing students confirmed that spending this time is what's best for them. I heard:
Was the extra time I spent on GCF and other math topics worth it? Absolutely! GCF Task Cards
To check out the Greatest Common Factor task cards, which has 2 sets of cards, for differentiation purposes, click the link below.
GCF & Factors Footloose Task Cards To Read Next:
Fraction Series, Week 4: Equivalent Fractions
We talked a little bit about equivalent fractions in the Week 2, modeling post, with the idea of using models, or representations, when adding or subtracting fractions, but we didn’t talk about how to find equivalent fractions, so we’ll go into that here in this quick post. First off, when do we usually use equivalent fractions? We often use equivalent fractions when:
Once we decide we need equivalent fractions, we find a common denominator for the fractions. There are a few ways to do that:
Fraction Series, Week 3: Benchmarks and Estimation
In the fraction standards review part of last week’s fraction post, I briefly summarized the fraction skills addressed at different grade levels.
In 4th grade, we have “comparing fractions with different numerators and denominators by using common denominators or benchmarks.” When we move to the 5th grade standards, we see benchmarking is also included in 5.NF.A.2:
Using Fraction Benchmarks
Using benchmarks to estimate is a powerful way to help students understand whether or not their answers make sense.
I'm not sure if your experience is the same as mine, but over the years, I've observed that this understanding of whether or not answers make sense is definitely an area of weakness for students (not just in the area of fractions). So, if we can incorporate the reinforcement of benchmarks, estimating, and the understanding of 'reasonable' it will be a huge benefit to our middle school students. Let’s look at the 4th grade concept of using benchmarks to compare fractions. When students are asked to compare fractions like 5/8 and 2/5, for example, the standard would like them to be able to look at 5/8 and think:
This is great logic. I have found, however, that some students don’t know how to find half of a number and even if they do know, they have trouble with half of an odd number. Have you found this too? That may be something for another post! When it comes to using benchmarks in 5th and 6th grades and beyond, we might not be using them as much to teach comparing fractions; but we can teach using benchmarks (and finding half) in the context of estimating answers for adding and subtracting fractions (and eventually for multiplying and dividing). Reviewing the Standards and Using Fraction Models
Welcome to Week 2 of the fraction basics series. Last week, we talked about basic meanings, a little bit about fraction models, and suggested a couple ways to work fraction basics into everyday instruction.
This week we’ll take a look at the progression of fraction skills through the grades before our students reach us in upper elementary and middle school math class. And then we’ll look at models:) Fractions in Grades 14
As upper elementary and middle school math teachers, we know our students have had fraction instruction – what fractions are, identifying fractions of shapes, finding equivalent fractions, comparing fractions, and some fraction operations; but we may not know exactly what students did in which grades.
So, for a 'quick' overview (based on the Common Core Standards), in the earlier grades (1st – 4th ) students should be learning/mastering the following: 1st Grade Math:
I think it's important to note that ‘using visual models’ is included in numerous places in these standards. End of Year Activities for Upper Elementary and Middle School
Are you approaching the end of the school year?
Does it feel like the school year flew by and it's already the end of the school year? Or did it seem slow in coming this year? Regardless of how quickly or slowly your school year went, the end of the year is a great time for students to look back and reflect on the time they spent at this grade level. If you're looking for a few activities for the end of the year, I have a few ideas for you:) End of School Year Activity #1
1) Students can write letters to themselves. You can have students selfaddress their envelopes, and then you can save them and mail them to students in August.
Kids are so excited to receive actual letters in the mail! AND, addressing an envelope is great practice for a life skill that isn't used quite as often these days. For most of the years we did this, many of my students had never addressed an envelope before.
Welcome to this blog series about teaching fractions in middle school!
For the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at various aspects of fractions: basic meanings, fraction models, finding equivalent fractions, comparing fractions, benchmarks and estimation. As an upper elementary or middle school math teacher, you may find yourself needing to review some of these fraction concepts before you can move on to the fraction curriculum for your grade level. When this is the case (needing to review fraction concepts that aren't part of your curriculum), there usually isn't much time to squeeze in extra instruction...it can be tough! We realize that some of our middle school kids just don't 'get' fractions, but our time is limited. I've got a couple ideas at the end of the post for how to weave in some of the 'fraction basics' in middle school. But first, for this week, we’ll start with some of the foundational fraction vocabulary terms. A few ways to use mini whiteboards and a great way to clean them!!
Do you use mini whiteboards in your middle school classrooms? I love them!
I've never purchased them, but I remember when I had them made, when I was teaching elementary school. Other teachers at my school and I went to the local Home Depot, bought the large white panel boards, and the Home Depot people cut them to size! It's been more than 20 years since I had them made, but I believe we were able to get thirtytwo 12 x 12inch whiteboards from one panel, and it cost less than $20. Then I used blue and green electric tape to tape the edges so students wouldn't get any kind of scratches from the unfinished surfaces. After several years, I retaped them with colorful Duck tape, to make them a little more pretty:) Using Mini Whiteboards
1) Mini whiteboards are a great way to increase student engagement.
When each student has their own marker and whiteboard, they are more likely to participate  they like the color of the markers and the space to do just a couple problems. Even those students who often hesitate to participate are more likely to engage when they're using their own whiteboard. 2) Mini whiteboards are fantastic for fast finisher activities. When students complete a wholeclass activity at different times (like Footloose activities), they can grab a whiteboard and do something like practice with Order of Operations flashcards (these are awesome, by the way... they make for great, quick, differentiated practice). With the whiteboards, markers, and erasers readily available, the kids are perfectly happy to grab a whiteboard and marker and get practicing:) Algebraic Expressions in 6th Grade Math
Translating between words and math in 6th grade  sometimes this can be easy, but some phrases can definitely be tricky!
By the time we start 'officially' translating between words and algebraic expressions, we've already done some translating to numerical expressions through our daily spiral review. To connect translating words to numerical expressions and translating between words and algebraic expressions, we take some more time to translate between words and numerical expressions. We use an organizer to list the key words that typically signal the different operations. (I use the same type of circle organizer I use for my "Memory Wheel" templates.) We typically include the following math terms and phrases, as you can see in the organizer: Addition
Great End of School Year Activity!
This post was taken from my old blog and revised...much more detail added:) Originally posted in June of 2014!
Tessellations in middle school math  one of my alltime favorite activities! I especially love using tessellation activities at the end of the school year....art projects like these keep students engaged:) We normally take a several days to work on tessellations...sometimes more, depending on how much time we have. First off, what is a tessellation? I show students a few examples and ask what they believe a tessellation is. They typically come up with the idea that a tessellation is the repeating of a shape or shapes in a pattern. I usually have to add the idea that there are no gaps or overlaps in a tessellation. Tessellations with Regular Shapes
We start with using regular shapes, so students understand the idea of tessellations in general.
We were fortunate to have pattern blocks of hexagons, triangle, squares, etc. in the classroom, so students could use those to trace and make their shapes as precise as possible. After using regular shapes, we extend to creating Escherlike tessellations. I share several example of these with students so they can study them and see the different types of animals, objects, etc found in them. How to Teach Decimal Addition and Subtraction
How do you teach adding and subtracting decimals in upper elementary or middle school math?
In 6th grade, my math students have typically come to me knowing the 'rules' for adding and subtracting decimals. However, when the number of digits in the numbers they're adding or subtracting aren't the same, they don't necessarily line the numbers up the way they need to...even though they 'know' the rules. Why is this? I believe it's because they really don't understand the point of 'lining up the decimal points.' My belief is reinforced by student comments I collected one year as we began our decimal operations unit. I asked my 6th grade math students to solve 35.2 + 7.489 and then explain why their answer made sense. These are a few of their responses:
Of the 120 students in my classes, only 8 said the answer made sense because "35 + 7 is 42" or because "I estimated" or "when we're doing addition, we know we end up with a bigger number." I don't want to assume that students who didn't write this didn't think about those things at all, but to the majority of students, their answers "made sense" when they followed the rules  even if they didn't remember the rules correctly. With a Peer Teaching ComponentAn Alternative to Daily Oral Language
I'm really excited to share my version of daily language review! I've used this method in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade language arts classes.
This daily language review incorporates peer teaching and was many years in the making:) I published 24 weeks of this daily language review for 6th grade a few years ago, but didn't share much about it at that time! So, here's the story:) About 20 years ago, after using Daily Oral Language in a variety of ways in my classroom, I decided that each student needed to become more engaged in our daily language instruction. Many were already engaged...students took turns coming to the board to make corrections and identify parts of speech, but typically, only one student had a turn at any one time. Understanding Why
At that time, my goal was to make sure students understood the reasons for the corrections they were making. Unfortunately, if they tuned out for even a little bit, they missed some information.
So, using the Daily Oral Language sentences, I created a peer teaching method for our daily language, which I'll explain below. ** Note: this daily language review is not the only method I use to teach grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc, but it has been a fantastic supplement to provide continual reinforcement throughout the year. Six Tips to Make the Grading Process FasterGrading Papers Quickly and Efficiently
How often have you wished you could just snap your fingers and have all the grading finished??
I don't know about you, but grading papers is definitely an area where I needed to find some ways to make the process faster. Over the years, I found a few little ways to get my grading done more quickly and efficiently. These days, the use of digital assessments can make some grading faster; however, you may not be able to (or want to) use digital assessments all the time. So, for those cases when you're working with paper assessments, I've got six tips for you! Grading Tip #1: Answer Sheets
1) If you're grading multiple choice/true or false (and aren't planning to do any partial credit), design your assessment so students will put their letter answer in a lefthand column.
Or, give them a separate answer sheet with answer spaces in a column. This way, all the letters are in an organized column for you and you can quickly go down the column, comparing the answers to the answer key. End of Class Routines
What are your end of class routines in middle school?
Do you have specific routines? A few weeks ago I wrote about routines to begin class; today I'll touch on routines to end class in middle school. I have to admit, my endofclass routines often didn't go as smoothly as my beginningofclass routines:) Best laid plans, you know.... When it went well, my routine at the end of class would include:
1) Writing homework on the board so students could add it to their assignment books.
I did accomplish this nearly every day:) Writing the homework was critical. Our team teachers made a point of doing a quick check at the end of class every day, to be sure students were writing their homework down (for some students, this was an accommodation we had to meet  checking the homework book. So, why not quickly scan/check all students' books?) 2) Asking an 'exit' question. I had a "ticket out the door' poster in the classroom that I numbered 130. Each student had a class number, so they'd answer the question on a postit and then put the postit on their number on the way out of class. I loved this method because:
Graphing Functions Practice with Footloose Task Cards (free download)
This Graphing Linear Functions post is from my old blog, written in May, 2015, but updated here:)
Graphing functions hit us in May of this school year. Our state testing had wrapped up and we started working with function tables and graphing function equations, on a pretty basic level. This post is my summary of how I approached practicing the basic idea of graphing linear functions with my 6th grade math students:) Included is a description of the task card activity I used, which you can download for free at the end of the post. Pi Day Ideas for Middle School Math
March 14, also known as Pi Day, is coming soon!
Do you have exciting plans for Pi Day activities in your math class? Maybe you have some tried and true favorites, or maybe you're looking for something new. Whether you teach 5th or 6th grade math, elementary math or higher levels of math, Pi Day is a day that can be celebrated and used to explore the concept of Pi  in so many different ways! Pi Day Activity
Have you tried using donuts to have students discover the Pi relationship between the diameter and the circumference? Or maybe cookies?
I tried it with donuts recently.....can be a little messy, but fun! In my pictures, you'll notice I had some donuts with icing and sprinkles....I'd suggest NOT using those if you want to minimize mess:) Materials for Pi Day activity: 1) Donuts 2) Licorice 'strings' for measuring (if you have tape measures that would be best, but I never had those in my classroom, so I went with the string idea) 3) Ruler Beginning of Class Routines
What do the beginning of class routines look like in your middle school classes?
Do your students enter the classroom and know exactly what to do? Or, in this age of virtual learning, do they know exactly what to do when they log on....or even before they log on? For a few of my first years of teaching, I didn't have specific classroom routines. Then I read The First Days of School and everything changed...I started incorporating specific tasks and routines for students to do/follow when they arrived in class. For several of my middle school teaching years, my homeroom students were my first period class, which made getting 'into' class really easy  the routine for those homeroom students was to begin specific tasks as soon as they had completed their homeroom routines. What Makes Math Fun?
"Math is boring."
"I wish math were more fun." Do you ever hear comments like this from students? Did you feel this way as a student? Do students walk out of your math class saying, "That was a fun class?" What Makes Math Fun? Can middle school math class be fun? Is math supposed to be fun? These are good questions, but my real question is  what makes math fun? Are we talking about having fun practicing math or having fun learning math? Or both? I'd argue that practicing math can't be much fun if a student doesn't understand the concepts. You can have the most exciting, engaging activity, but for the students who don't know how to solve the math problems, the activity is NOT fun; it's meaningless and frustrating...especially if they see other students having fun because they 'get it.' Before practicing math can be fun, students need to understand the concepts.....at least partially! Maybe a fun math activity can help solidify the concepts, but there must be some understanding to begin with. NoteTaking in Upper Elementary and Middle School Classes How much do your math and ELA students love taking notes?! What's your favorite method for taking notes with your upper elementary or middle school students? Maybe your favorite math method is different from your favorite ELA method. Maybe they're similar:) I used to use fold it ups (or foldables) quite often in both math and language arts. However, my middle school classes were always 40ish minutes long and often, no matter how prepared I was, creating the fold it up just ate up too much of the class time. Using Fold It Ups Sometimes there wasn't enough time to add the notes before math or language arts classes was over. And the fold it ups were kind of hard to keep organized. We tried using folders and envelopes, and in my last years of using them, I tried using a bound book of fold it ups. I took all my math fold it ups and organized them in the order we'd use them during the school year, added some blank pages in between them, and had them bound as a book for each math student. Then all the fold it ups stayed in the book. Some remained attached on their original page because they were never totally cut out; some were glued or taped onto the blank pages. This method of organizing the notes was the one that worked best for my math students. I never did that with ELA...because I stopped teaching that class before I had this idea, lol. But then, I started making math wheels.... Two Types of Digital Coloring Activities Remote Learning Activities There are so many distance learning activities available for your upper elementary and middle school math classes right now! What will work best for your math students (or for your ELA students, or science students, etc, if you also teach other classes)? What do your students like? But just as importantly, if not more importantly, what provides great practice of the math (or other) skills during this time of virtual learning? Since I'm such a lover of color by number activities, I want to discuss two styles of digital color by number: the 'pixel art' mystery picture style and the 'fill color bucket' style. Color by Number Activities Overview Let's start with a quick overview of these color by number/color by answer types, in case you aren't familiar with them. Pixel art mystery pictures: 1) Created in Google Sheets; could be downloaded and used in Excel. 2) Students solve, enter their answers in the cells, and color appears in the squares if the answer is correct. If the answer is incorrect, the squares may stay white or show an incorrect indicator, depending on how the creator designed it.
Loving Prime Factorization
Is it weird that I love prime factorization?? Every year of teaching math, I have come to appreciate prime factorization more and more! Maybe it’s because when I was a student (forever ago!), I didn’t learn how to use prime factorization to find greatest common factors, least common multiples or to reduce fractions. (I will admit to the possibility that I learned and forgot….but I truly think I didn't learn it!). In addition to missing this information as a student, I didn't find it in math teacher manuals until I'd been teaching for more than 20 years. I'll share why I love it so much by explaining three ways to use prime factorization: to find GCF, LCM, and lowest terms for fractions. Six Jobs to Help you Supplement or Replace Your Teaching Income
Do you love your teaching job, but need extra cash? Maybe something to do on the side or during the summer?
Do you love teaching, but your circumstances require you to find an alternate career? Or, are you hoping to leave the classroom, because teaching isn't what you thought it would be and you want a change, but aren't sure where to start? I've been where you may be! I loved teaching and taught elementary and middle school for 24 years, but throughout those years, there were times that I wanted to be home with my own children, and that made me want to leave the classroom. And sometimes we needed extra money. AND I wanted to work for myself! So, from as long ago as my second year of teaching, I was always seeking other ways to earn money  especially ways that would let me work from home. I tried several ways to earn extra money over the years, and I'll share the most successful of those here (yes, there were some unsuccessful ones too:). The jobs I share here are the ones that allowed me to make enough money to replace my teaching income and leave the classroom.
Emergency sub plans! Do you have them?
Will you need them? This fall especially (2020), you may need to have those emergency sub plans ready. Perhaps your school district is requiring you to have a week, or even two weeks, of plans. Or perhaps you just want to be extraprepared. What's the best way to approach emergency sub plans in middle school math? If you're like me, you don't want your absence to cause your math students to 'get behind' in the curriculum...you don't want things to be put on hold or to stop in the middle of a unit. But, you don't always know who will be taking over your math class....will it be a math teacher or someone who has never taught math and isn't comfortable with math? If you must have the plans set at the beginning of the year, you can't really include the specific content you'll be teaching when those plans are needed. So what's the best approach for sub plans? First off  if you do have to be out and there's a test (or some other really critical item) scheduled for your first or second day of absence, I'd keep that on the schedule. Do whatever you can to be sure students get to take the test as scheduled. Make sure you're prepped for the test a day or two before....copies made or links prepared, so no one has to scramble to take care of it that morning (or has to postpone it). After the test, your sub can move on to the emergency plans. (I only mention this because I was guilty of lastminute 'morning of' prepping too often. Eventually, I started prepping my classroom for the next day before I left in the afternoon....writing the agenda on the board, being sure all copies were done, etc.) OK, on to some ideas... Problem Solving Problem solving is always an area that students can practice! I typically include problem solving sheets requiring students to show all their math work AND do some writing, to explain how they arrived at their answers. Some problem solving suggestions include:
Do you teach divisibility rules in your math class?
I've always enjoyed teaching divisibility rules and my 6th grade math students have always seemed to have fun using them! I've read different opinions about whether or not teaching divisibility rules should be a focus in math class, because they may be viewed as 'tricks.' However, I think understanding and using them in middle school helps students develop number sense and number fluency. Rather than being taught as a 'unit,' I think divisibility rules should be introduced and then referred to again and again in any applicable situation throughout the year. To make the continuous revisiting easier for students, I've always liked to have a resource for them to refer to throughout the year. We used to create folditups, but then I moved to using a Doodle Notes resource or a Math Wheel. Any reference sheet is helpful so that when you ask a divisibility question, students can grab it (or look at it on a wall) to quickly refresh their memories, if needed. 
AuthorHey there! I'm Ellie  here to share math fun, best practices, and engaging, challenging, easyprep activities ideas! Archives
January 2022
