Activities and Games

Finding "Real-Life" Fractions

These games use students’ pets, names, and other familiar things to simplify an often tricky subject.

  • Grades: 3–5

Fur, Feathers, and Fins
Label a chart with "Fur," "Scales," Feathers," and "Other." Invite students to draw a tally mark in the column that describes their pet or one they'd like to have by its outer covering. Then count all of the tally marks on the chart. Explain that this is the total number of pets (for instance, there might be 25 tallies). Next, count the tallies in each column. Each time, help students state that number as a fraction of the total number of pets.
Extra credit: Students can create a variety of pet-related charts-leg count, color, or even the first letter of their pet's name.

First and Last Name Fractions
Ask students to write their first and last names and count the letters in each. Have them count the number of vowels in each name, then show them how to write a fraction that represents the vowels to total letters. After finding this fraction for both names, ask students to compare the fractions. Which fraction is larger? Encourage students to explain their response. If needed, help students find a common denominator to make the comparison easier.
Extra credit: Challenge pairs to add their findings to discover the fraction for the total number of vowels (or consonants) in both their first and last names.

Compute by Attribute
Poll students to find out how many ride a bus to school. Count those who fit this category, then sort that number into two groups: boys and girls. Ask students to identify the fraction that represents each group (for example, 9/15 of the bus riders are boys and 6/15 are girls). Next, present an additional attribute for sorting, such as how many in each group have brown hair. Have students name the fractions that represent these groups (for instance, 5/9 of the bus-riding boys have brown hair). Challenge students to use the fractions to solve word problems, such as "What fraction of all bus riders have brown hair?"
Extra credit: Create other categories and attributes to give additional practice.

Foot-Long Fractions
Tell students that a foot-long ruler is divided into 12 equal parts, or inches. Then, invite them to use a ruler to measure an assortment of items in the classroom, rounding the length of each to the nearest inch. Have students record their findings on paper, then show them how to write the measurements as a fraction of a one-foot length. For example, the length of a pencil might be 6/12 of a foot. Afterward, ask students to reduce fractions to their lowest terms (such as 6/12 = ½).
Extra credit: Have students measure items longer than 12 inches. Then challenge students to convert the fractions to mixed numbers (for instance, 17/12 = 1 5/12).

Money in Fractions
Show students a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and half-dollar, one coin at a time. Explain that each coin represents a specific part of 100 cents, which is equal to one dollar. Ask students to name the value of each coin and tell what part of 100 cents it equals (for example, a nickel is 5 parts of 100 cents). If needed, fill in boxes on a 100-box grid to provide a visual representation. Then, show students how to write the value as a fraction (5/100) and a decimal (.05).
Extra credit: Encourage students to add the dollar sign to the decimal form of the money values that they write.

Fractions Around the Year
Review the calendar and explain that each day represents a fraction of the total days in that month. Name a few fractions that relate to the month and explain their meaning (such as 9/31 represents 9 of 31 days of the month). Then, have students use the calendar to answer fraction-related questions. You might have them tell the fraction of the month that's made up of Fridays, the fraction that represents the even-numbered days, the fraction of the month that comes before the first Monday, and so on.
Extra credit: Make up subtraction problems for students to solve with a calendar. For example, "If 12/30 of the month has passed, what fraction of the month remains?"

-Mackie Rhodes

  • Subjects:
    Fractions, Real-World Math

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