3 Ways to Inspire a Love of Fractions
I don’t have to tell you about all the negative emotions surrounding fractions… Many students hate fractions. Some even FEAR fractions. And honestly? I know several teachers that dread any unit having to do with fractions too. I think a lot of the negative feelings about fractions comes from a lack of learning fractions the way we should have learned fractions. Most of us weren’t taught fractions in a way that made sense or had any type of meaning. Some of our students were introduced to fractions in this same type of way as well.
So how can we get students to love learning fractions?
(By the way, these ideas are not exclusive to fractions and can really be used to instill a love of learning any math concept!)
Make the learning hands-on
Our work with fractions can be one of the most hands-on concepts we teach in 4th and 5th grade math. Or at least it SHOULD be. The primary focus of the fraction standards in 4th and 5th grade is to develop students’ fraction sense and their ability to reason about parts of wholes. This understanding builds a foundation that is absolutely necessary for students to find success with decimals and percents in middle school. A shaky fraction foundation can even lead to struggles in their high school math classes! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
No pressure, right?
It’s so important that we remove the fear of fractions NOW so that they are prepared for success later. There are two reasons hands-on activities helped develop my students’ love of fractions. The obvious reason is that it is instantly more engaging. When we require students to use their mind and hands on a task, there is increased engagement and attention span.
The second reason hands-on activities encouraged a love of fractions in my students is that students’ understanding of fractions became much deeper. So often we fear or dread the things that don’t make sense or the things we have experienced confusion or failure with in the past. For many of our students, fractions stir up those negative feelings. It’s possible that their only experience with fractions is a set of rules, definitions and algorithms, most of which are very different than the rules, definitions, and algorithms they’ve learned about whole numbers.
When students actually understand the concepts they are learning, they grow to love those concepts because they associate that concept with a feeling of success or accomplishment. I firmly believe that students CANNOT develop a true understanding of the big fraction concepts they are learning in 4th and 5th grade without working with fractions in a concrete (hands-on) way.
Provide real world connections
There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to learn something you believe will never be useful to you. When there is no clear reason for pushing your brain to figure out challenging concepts, there is very little motivation to persevere when the learning doesn’t come easily. A lot of students feel this exact way about fractions! Many students see fractions as “school math” and never understand the application of what they are learning outside of the classroom! We should always give purpose to the concepts we teach and this purpose comes from exposing students to the ways in which they will use this math out in the real world!
I’m sure I don’t have to convince you why we need to provide opportunities for students to make real world connections with fractions! Instead, I’d rather get your brain thinking about different ways you can incorporate real world uses of fractions into your instruction. I’ve created this Fractions in the Real World FREEBIE for this very reason. If you are looking for new ways to make fractions meaningful for your students, be sure to download this free resource and let your creative brain run wild!
Give students an experience
One of my favorite ways to stir up excitement and anticipation in our fraction units is to create EXPERIENCES for my students. This really can go hand in hand with providing real world connections. Providing students with an experience makes these real world connections come to life.
Instead of only solving a word problem about a recipe, give students the opportunity to actually make a recipe. Rather than completing a worksheet about building something, give students the opportunity to actually build it (on a smaller scale of course)!
It is these types of activities that make the math meaningful AND memorable! There is real meaning and context behind the fractions and positive memories are created around working with fractions!
I understand this can be challenging and it obviously takes some thought because realistically there are some limitations to the experiences we can offer students in the classroom. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, I encourage you to think about how you can get creative and give students an amazing experience! If you aren’t sure where to start, I’ve got this Play Dough Fraction Project FREEBIE for my 4th and 5th grade teachers!
I’d love to hear from you! How do you get your students to LOVE learning fractions?
Check out these other great ideas to spark a love of learning in your upper elementary students!
From left to right:
Spark a Love of Learning with Games | The Owl Teacher
Spark a Love of Social Studies | Tried and True Teaching Tools
3 Ways to Inspire a Love of Fractions | Mix and Math
Just-Right Reading: I Love Myself! | Reading by Heart
5 Ways to Ignite a Love of Math Problem Solving | Think Grow Giggle
Absent Work that Students and Teachers Love | Elementary Inquiry
Loving to Write Informational Texts | Mikey D Teach
Valuing Student Voice to Create a Love of Learning | Wild Child’s Mossy Oak Musings
Developing Grit: Learning to Love a Challenge | Kerry Tracy
How to Build a Love of Geometry | Love Learning