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.
First up ~ fraction, numerator and denominator. These are the easy ones, right?
We might think so, but sometimes students have misunderstandings around these terms. When I looked for definitions of these terms, I found the following:
In 3rd grade, if the class is following common core standards, students should also learn that a fraction is a number on the number line.
By middle school, it often seems that the picture with colored/not colored sections is what students remember best. Not the number line. Do you find this too?
The number line model is so important when students start learning about decimals on the number line (and it can help them understand equivalent fractions), so if your middle schoolers aren't familiar with fractions on the number line, I'd recommend making this a big focus.
A few other important terms we'll explore in the coming weeks:
Mixed numbers: also represent amounts greater than 1, and are the combination of a whole number and a proper fraction
Unit fractions: fractions with a numerator of one
Daily Fraction Reinforcement
Middle students often come to us with varied fraction backgrounds, and as mentioned, some students don't seem to understand what fractions even are.
I've found that weaving fractions into parts of our math routine helps keep fraction basics fresh. It also helps students be more prepared for when they must use fractions and fraction operations in other math contexts. A few ideas include:
1) Review fraction vocabulary at the beginning of the year and provide students with a type of reference sheet.
(The fraction doodle page shown here is available in the free resource center on this site. To access this and other free resources, check out the Free Resource Center Information page.)
2) Keep visual representations around the room. For years, I kept a fraction/decimal/percent number line up above my whiteboard. This kept some of the common fractions and their decimal/percent equivalences visible at all times for quick reference. Students definitely used this.
Visuals of fraction sets, number lines, and partitioned shapes are all helpful.
3) Include fraction basics in spiral review. If the concepts keep popping up when you aren’t 'teaching' them, students will become more accustomed to seeing them and working with them.
4) If you do Number Talks, include fraction number talks as often as you’re able. These will give students a chance to explore fraction concepts a bit. If you don't do Number Talks, consider checking them out!
What other suggestions do you have to help middle school math students with the fraction basics?
Interested in more about fractions? Check out the Teaching Fraction Operations course.
Fraction Operations Wheel
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Hey there! I'm Ellie - here to share math fun, best practices, and engaging, challenging, easy-prep activities ideas!