8 Fractions



We are well into the chapter about fractions.  I always find this chapter a fun challenge because of the new concepts it introduces.  I absolutely love watching the students concentrate.  They work so hard that I can often see the light bulb click on when they understand.


I know this note might seem like a long note, but it’s broken up into short pieces that really wouldn’t take much time to do at home.  I hope you find it useful.


Questions for students (answers in italics)


  • Simply ask the students, “What are fractions?  If you had to teach them to a younger child, what would you say?”  (Fractions are the parts, pieces, or groups of a whole, and all the parts are equal or the same size.) 
  • When you look at a fraction, what’s the first thing to do?  (Look at the bottom number to find out how many pieces to make or how many groups to make.)
  • What do you do next?  (Look at the top number.  It tells you how many pieces to point to or shade in.)
  • How do you show 1/3 or 2/3 on a circle?  (We practiced how to divide a circle into thirds by drawing a dot in the center and then drawing a fat Y in the middle.)

How to ask for help

In class, whenever the students are stuck and need help figuring out a fraction question, I have stressed that they must ask for help in a specific way.

If they are struggling with trying to break the denominator into its pieces, they must ask for help like this, “Mr. Downey, I don’t see how to make this into (3, 4, 6, 8, etc.) pieces.”  Then I simply show them how to cut it up.  When they ask me like this, it tells me that they focused on the denominator first, and they understand that they need to get the pieces cut first but just don’t see how to do that.

(The students will use this a lot when they have to find fractions of a collection of items as opposed to a solid shape.)

Suggested Activities for Home

Write a fraction (1/3, 2/4, 2/3, etc.) and ask the students to show you what it looks like.  For example, draw a square or circle and say, “Shade in 2/3 of it.”  It’s good to use different shapes so the students get practice in how to divide things different ways.

THEN BE SURE TO DO THIS NEXT, after they have shown you their drawing, ask, “Now look at the part not shaded in.  What’s its name?  Write the fraction of the part that’s not shaded in.”  Students tend to forget to include ALL the pieces in the denominator at this point and simply count up the unshaped pieces and call that the denominator.

Think of other fractions to have the students illustrate, but after they shade in the answer, ask them to name the part that’s not shaded.

Now try reversing the activity.  You draw a shape that has been divided into pieces with parts colored.  Then ask the students to tell you the fraction of the part colored and the part not colored.

(This coming week we will begin working with fractions when given a collection of things rather than a solid shape.  You will probably see some papers along those lines coming home.)


  • When the students are feeling comfortable, you could draw a shape like a square, rectangle, or circle and say, “Color ¼ red, ¼, blue, and ½ green.”  Get the idea.  Mix up some fractions within one shape.
  • Pose a question like this:  Suppose you are really hungry and you’re looking at a pizza.  Would you want to eat ½ or ¾ or the pizza?  Which fraction would give you more?  We do this in class and practice how to prove our answers.  Ask this question with different fractions.