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 1-4
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.
Fractions in 5th Grade Math (and beyond)
By the time students get to us in 5th or 6th grade (or beyond), students should understand all of the 1st-4th grade fraction concepts. Unfortunately, it often isn’t the case……for so many reasons.
So that’s all well and good….students are supposed to have done all of this, should be proficient at these fraction skills, and should be ready to apply them and go deeper at the next grade level.
But what are math teachers at 5th, 6th, or higher grade levels supposed to do when this isn’t the case, and their math curriculum builds on that prior fraction knowledge? The ‘time’ issue continues to be an issue. Where does reteaching fit into the curriculum? (A question for many math concepts, but we'll stick to fractions here!)
Using Models in Fraction Instruction
I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few ideas.
Let’s look at how using models might be able to help. Based on the standards, student should have been using various models before hitting 5th grade – area models, length models, set models, and number lines. Continuing to use these fraction models will only help students connect the concepts with the processes.
One way to help students bridge some of the fraction gaps (or just refresh their memories) is to incorporate these visual models as much as possible.
When teaching a new fraction concept (or briefly reviewing concepts from previous years), bring in the models.
For example, when teaching adding or subtracting fractions with unlike denominators (2/3 + 1/6 or 2/3 - 1/6), include a model next to the problem or have students draw models.
Other Fraction Models
As students get into higher grade levels, the length model is extremely helpful, since it’s easy to transfer to a number line.
While you probably don’t want to redraw the lengths and the number line for every new problem, you can create and post some length/number line models around the classroom and provide models students can refer to on a regular basis.
This can again reinforce the concept of equivalent fractions, help students with comparing fractions, and transfer to fraction, decimal equivalences.
Length models, aligned with a number line, can also be helpful to reinforce the idea that students can count by unit fractions the same way they can count by whole numbers.
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!