Fractions can be an extremely tricky concept for many students to understand. For the first three or four years of elementary school, most students work with whole numbers exclusively. Then, these strange looking things called fractions are introduced. This abstract concept can be very hard for some students to grasp.
Fractions can be defined as “a part of a whole.” But I always ask my students “a whole what?” and many times they can’t answer me because they don’t understand that fractions are a number, just like whole numbers. Most of the time, fractions are introduced by cutting and shading in pictures or shapes and then naming that fraction. This concept is important for understanding equal parts but it doesn’t support the idea that fractions are numbers.
The more we can support fraction understanding at home the bigger an impact it will have on our children’s number sense. Asking the right questions and using the right tools for homework and practice is essential. Playing fraction games and making fractions fun will help all children to not be afraid of and understand fractions at a deeper level.
Below are some ideas, activities, and games to play at home to support fraction understanding and make fractions fun!
- Fractions Are Numbers — Help your child understand that fractions are simply numbers that fall between whole numbers. Showing a ruler or measuring tape is a great example of “parts of a whole.” Getting children to see the space between whole numbers is a great first step towards understanding fractions.
- Fraction Vocabulary — Use appropriate language when talking about fractions to reinforce math vocabulary:
- Unit Fraction: a fraction with 1 as the numerator
- Numerator: the top number in a fraction that shows the number of parts you have
- Denominator: the bottom number in a fraction that shows the number of equal parts
- Proper Fraction: a fraction that is less than 1
- Improper Fraction: a fraction that is greater than 1
- Fractions on a Number Line — Using a number line is a great tool to understanding fractions. Always have a blank number line available for homework or practice so your child can break the number line into equal pieces and solve different problems.
- Roll a Fraction — With blank number lines between 0 and 1 and a die you can play a fun game to reinforce making equal parts. Roll the die (or dice and add them to get bigger numbers) and divide the number line into that many equal pieces. Then mark each fractional piece on the number line. For example, roll a 5 and divid the number line into 5 equal pieces and then mark where 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, 4/5 and 5/5 are on the line. Keep rolling and repeat the steps. Your child will begin to see which fractions have bigger pieces and which have smaller pieces. Use these empty fraction lines to help.
- Fraction War — Using a deck of cards (Ace through nine) or digit cards play a fun game of war with fractions. Deal the entire deck out to each player. Each player turns over two cards and places the smaller number as the numerator and the larger number as the denominator. Each player reads their fraction out loud — whichever player has the larger fraction wins that round and keeps all the cards. Play continues until all the cards are gone. Whoever has the most cards wins!