Teaching Fractions

Shelley Frost
set of fractions

Teaching fractions in a homeschool setting equals lots of hands-on teaching moments. These activities supplement fraction worksheets and other traditional instruction.

Fraction Terminology

A solid understanding of the fraction terminology makes teaching the concept much easier. Brush up on these important fraction definitions:

  • Numerator: The top number of the fraction that identifies the subset of the total. The 3 in 3/8 is the numerator.
  • Denominator: The bottom number of the fraction that represents the total number of parts. The 8 in 3/8 is the denominator.
  • Proper Fraction: The numerator is smaller than the denominator. An example is 5/8.
  • Improper Fraction: The numerator is greater than then denominator. The fraction 9/7 is an example.

Classroom Displays

A visual depiction on the wall of the classroom area provides a reference for the kids as they move through the fraction instruction. Consider these options for classroom displays for teaching fractions:

  • Create a large poster displaying a sample fraction. Label the numerator and denominator as a reminder.
  • Draw a sample picture of an item that is divided into equal parts. A round object such as a pie or cookie is a good image.
  • Hang a set of measuring cups or spoons with the fractions clearly marked to show the size difference.

Hands-On Activities for Teaching Fractions

Most kids are visual learners, making visual aids a powerful teaching method when it comes to teaching fractions.

Food Fractions

Using food to understand fractions is a motivating method for kids. A number of food objects are easily divided into equal parts, making a delicious visual aid for teaching fractions. Consider these food-related activities:

  • Pass out a handful of M&Ms or other multi-colored candy. Have the kids sort out the candies based on color. Show them how to create a fraction for each color by using the total number of candies as the denominator and the number of each color as the numerator.
  • Bake a pizza, cake, giant cookie or other item. Cut the baked goods into a certain number of equal pieces.
  • Use marshmallows or other small food pieces for fraction word problems. For example, give each child 12 marshmallows. Ask them how many marshmallows they would eat if they were told they could have 1/3 of the amount. Continue asking other fraction problems using the food.

Individual Counters

Any small objects around the house or classroom work well for practicing fractions. Hand the kids a pile of the counters for fraction practice. These counters work well to visualize fractions. They also come in handy once you start adding and subtracting fractions.

Other Fraction Activities

Using a variety of visual aids and hands-on activities makes teaching fractions more interesting for you and the kids. Try these other activities to represent fractions:

  • Make a pizza from felt. Cut out a large yellow circle for the crust. Then add smaller red and white circles for the sauce and cheese. Cut the pizza into equal pieces. Use an old pizza pan or a shallow pie tin to hold the pizza in the circle shape. You can make several pizzas divided into different numbers of pieces for added practice.
  • Create fraction strips with colored poster board or construction paper. Use 5 different colors of the selected material and cut each color into equal sized strips. Each child will need one strip of each color. Leave one color strip to represent the whole. Choose another color to represent halves. The kids fold the strip in half and cut it on the crease. They then label each half with the fraction 1/2. Repeat with the other colored strips to represent 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16. Use these strips to compare fractions and find equivalent fractions. This also helps students see that the larger the denominator, the smaller the piece. You can also do a set of fraction strips to represent other fractions.
  • Cook with the kids. Fractions of measurements are common in recipes. You can double the recipe or cut it in half for additional fraction work.
  • Use a set of nesting measuring cups to represent fractions. The kids can see the visual difference between the fractions of one cup. They can also experiment with equivalent fractions by seeing how many quarter cups of water it takes to make a half cup, ¾ of a cup or a full cup. This also works with measuring spoons.
  • Look at nutritional labels. Not only do the kids get a quick lesson in nutrition, they also get more practice with fractions. Have them look at the serving size in comparison to the whole package. Give them word problems that involve adding food portions, calculating nutritional value of the whole package and other scenarios.

Break it Down

Teaching fractions takes a great deal of practice for many kids. Visual representations of the concept help most kids understand fractions more clearly. With repeated practice, the kids will gain a solid understanding of fractions that they can apply to future math concepts

Teaching Fractions