When I think about teaching fractions to students, I immediately want to connect the dots in their little brains by saying, “we can use fractions to share with friends!”
Having students consider fractions through ordinary interactions in their lives is a great way to introduce this math skill. Because in reality, that’s when we are most likely to use them. So, your fraction lesson plans should reflect that.
I say that to say, teaching fractions to kids can be a fun and educational experience because we get to use many real-life scenarios. But it can also be tricky to navigate lesson planning. You need plans that show students how our numbers go beyond the whole but in a simplistic and appealing way that students can truly understand!
So, I like to include 5 essential components in my fraction lesson plans to ensure students are getting everything they need to get a good grasp of this math concept.
It’s not enough to just have fraction worksheets for your students to complete. They need constant reinforcement of fraction concepts in a variety of ways.
I’ll be sharing those 5 things with a look inside our 3rd Grade Magic of Math fractions unit and I’ve included a complimentary sample activity for you to test in your classroom!
If you just start babbling off about denominators and numerators then you’ve already lost your students, friend! You need to SHOW them what you mean. Start by introducing math terms to your students and defining them.
Math vocabulary is an essential tool for students to learn and understand math concepts. Having a strong math vocabulary can help students build confidence in their math skills.
With a better understanding of the language of math, students can more easily understand the material and develop a better understanding of the subject. It truly sets the foundation for the remainder of the lesson!
I think we can all agree that students’ attention spans are pretty short. So, you’ve only got a couple of minutes to keep their attention long enough to demonstrate a math skill effectively.
That’s what makes mini-lessons an essential math component.
We use fraction mini lessons as a whole group to model fractions and show students why they are important. Use mini-lessons in your fraction unit to introduce the skill, model the skill on your own, incorporate the students, and then eventually, release responsibility onto them.
Here’s an example of how we structure that in our fraction mini-lesson inside of our Magic of Math unit for comparing fractions (see image above).
- We start first by Introducing comparing fractions with like denominators using poster pieces. This is where we begin to really use our vocabulary and start to differentiate the denominator and numerator.
- As we begin to model how to compare fractions to our students, we show students how the fraction with the greatest numerator is the greatest fraction. For our models, we use pizzas.
- Pizzas make the best fraction examples!
- So, we take students to the “pizzeria.” First, you will create your own fractions. Using the pizza models, create fractions by adding toppings to a portion of slices on the pizza. You can use paper cutouts or poms or any other creative object to represent the toppings.
- For example, you can top 2/8ths of the pizza with cheese and the other with peppers. Then, as a class, begin to create fractions that match the model. Finally, you will use the model and fractions to compare fractions using the less than or greater than symbols to identify the greatest fraction.
- Continue this process for multiple examples until you have begun to relinquish more of the duties to your students.
You want to introduce your mini-lesson at the start of the week and use it in this way to ensure you’re setting a strong foundation that carries them throughout the remainder of the week.
Your mini-lesson will be the most important fraction activity you complete. It is essential to get it right!
Word problems have always been a conventional way to practice math skills. In fraction practice, using word problems allows teachers to show students how we would apply real-world scenarios to math.
Instead of simply using numbers to explain, we use real items students encounter normally. Like discussing the number of books read over a course of time or how we divide and consume a yummy pie.
At home, students may begin to see these fractions in action without even trying. For example, when they sit down for family dinner, they can think about how many slices of pizza they’ll need to feed each family member.
These are the sort of examples you can use when having your students complete fraction word problems.
Word problems are essential to teaching fractions because students are working with reality but also, reviewing and using multiple math skills to solve their problems.
Your fraction lesson plans wouldn’t be complete without a set of fun activities! Practicing comparing fractions can be challenging for some students. So, don’t rely on worksheets to get the job done.
Interactive and hands-on fraction activities allow students to learn in a way that feels more natural. Learning through play helps relax the nerves of students who are eager to move on to something else and increases their interest in participating in the learning process.
To give you an idea of what this should look like, here are some fun fraction activities that we use in our Magic of Math fractions unit.
There is nothing like a good interactive math activity! Allow your students to get playful with these pizza models. Using pizza printables, they can use various manipulatives to add toppings. Then, have students use a recording sheet to compare their slices. For example, 2/6 has green peppers and 4/6 has pepperoni. They will be able to clearly see that 4/6 of the pizza is greater than 2/6.
Comparing Fractions with Candy
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box for your lesson! If you are anything like me, then you are always looking for ways to incorporate food into activities. Snacks make wonderful motivators within the classroom. Kids will be excited to learn they’ll have a little treat after practicing their fraction skills.
I am a big fan of math games, so naturally, it’s a no-brainer to include them in our set of fraction activities. One way we do this is with our version of Kaboom! For the game, students will work as partners.
When students are allowed to work together, they can assist each other with deepening understanding, have time to connect with their fellow classmates, and get a break from the seriousness of the lesson!
Here’s how it works: Comparing fraction strips are placed into a container. Students draw a strip. They use their watermelon candy pieces to compare the fractions. If they do it correctly (partners must agree), they keep that strip. But, if they pull out a KABOOM strip… ALL playing cards must go back! The student with the most playing cards at the end is the winner.
Using candy, students can build ‘greater than’ or ‘less than’ symbols. For this purpose, we use sour patch candy, but you could use any candy that would lend itself to creating an arrow-style shape. You could even use the stick pretzels, too!
Fractions on a Number Line
Working with number lines may not be the most exciting skill students will learn but they work wonders in helping students with comprehension. We use number lines in fraction practice to help students compare them or identify equivalents.
To make this more interesting, we create our number lines using pipe cleaner sliders and beads! Students will move the beads along the number line to model various fractions then use question cards to have them figure out their relationship – whether equal, greater, or less than.
We make this easier by adding multiple number lines with varying fractions on one page. That way as the students are moving the beads to a fraction placement, they can clearly see where the fractions are along the line which makes it easier to compare.
Working with the beads, your students won’t even feel like they’re learning!
Don’t forget to get up and move! Students need some form of movement each day and a great way to make sure it’s happening in your day is to include fraction activities that get students out of their seats!
It may not seem like it makes a ton of sense on the surface, but trust me, there is a way to incorporate movement in your math lesson plans.
One way we do this in our fraction unit is through music! The Fraction Musical Walk is another mini-lesson where we will be working as a class to order our fractions from least to greatest.
Here’s how we play this fraction activity.
- Lay the fraction cards out on the floor in a circle shape.
- Play music as the students walk from fraction to fraction.
- When the music stops, the student stops on a fraction.
- They then must find the group of students who all have the same SHAPE and the same NUMERATOR.
- They must order the fractions from least to greatest.
Incorporating movement into your fraction lesson plans will ensure students are remaining active in their education.. and get a break from all the paperwork!
When building your fraction lesson plans, you’ll want to include these 5 essential elements to ensure your students are deepening their understanding of fraction components, learning how to use fractions in the real world, and having a positive outlook on learning new math skills in a fun way!
You can learn more about the activities mentioned in this post and a lot more inside our 3rd grade Magic of Math fractions unit right here.
Test Out Magic of Math in Your Classroom
You can get your hands on a FREEBIE fractions activity from our Magic of Math program using THIS link.