Teaching Equivalent Fractions

Valorie Delp
Teaching equivalent fractions is fun.

Teaching equivalent fractions can be tricky, as the concept of fractions are harder to get for some students. With that said, laying a good foundation for understanding fractions is essential towards helping kids understand concepts with fractions.

Laying a Foundation

Laying a foundation for fractions is important. Fractions should be taught step by step and the more your child understands the fundamentals, the more your child will understand how to apply their new found knowledge. Before you start to teaching how to make an equivalent fraction, start with simpler concepts.

The Multiplicative Identity

This is really a fancy way of saying that any number multiplied by one is equal to itself. It is not important that your child be able to name this identity but it is important that he intuitively understands that anything multiplied by one doesn't change.

Fractions Equivalent to One

Put simply, any fraction is equal to one when both the numerator and denominator are the same number. While you can tell your child this, and it may certainly help translate the idea from abstract to concrete, it also helps to use some type of visual. With that said, help your child understand fractions that are equivalent to one by explaining that a pie is cut into equal pieces but no one has been served yet. There are three (or however many you choose) pieces out of three total pieces or, one whole pie. Practice the idea by giving your child equations that feature a missing denominator or numerator and asking your child to fill in the missing number to make the fraction equivalent to one.

Teaching Equivalent Fractions

Once your child understands the idea of factors and how to make a fraction equivalent to one, remind him of the multiplicative identity-that you can multiply anything by one and come up with its equal. Before you start showing your child how to make an equivalent fraction on paper, show him that fractions can be equivalent with some visual aids:

  • Draw two squares on a piece of paper.
  • Divide one square into fourths and the other into eighths.
  • Ask your child to shade half of each square and then right the fraction of the shaded part underneath. For the square divided into fourths, he should write 1/2 or 2/4. For the fraction underneath the square divided into eighths he should write 4/8.
  • Discuss with your child how 1/2, 2/4, and 4/8 are all equivalent fractions.
  • Repeat the process until your child thoroughly understands.

Tools for Teaching Equivalent Fractions

There are many tools for teaching equivalent fractions. You can always use plain old paper and pencil. One nice thing about doing it this way is that your child can practice shading in a corresponding equivalent fraction. However, if you want to get manipulatives, there are several to choose from.

Cuisinaire Rods

Cuisinaire rods are a standard favorite in teaching all sorts of mathematical concepts. They can also be used to teach equivalent fractions. When you purchase them, they generally come with a simple guide on how to use them.

Pizza Fraction Games

A pizza fraction game is a great idea, especially if you have a child that is really struggling with the concept of fractions. Kids are readily able to understand the idea of dividing a pizza (or any food for that matter) into equal sized portions to share. Consequently, using the model of a pizza is a great way to teach anything about fractions, including the concept of equivalent fractions.

Going Further with Equivalent Fractions

It's important to not rush through this concept and make sure that your child thoroughly understands the concept. He will need to revisit the idea again when he starts to learn how to add and subtract fractions. Even more pragmatic, most of us that shop use the concepts every day when it comes to using our own money. For example, if something is 25 percent off, it's a fourth of the original price-an excellent example of how equivalent fractions are used every day!

Teaching Equivalent Fractions