Friday, December 4, 2015

Thursday Tool School: Understanding Fractions- Equivalence

"Thursday Tool School" on a Friday! End-of-the-semester graduate projects are really kicking my rear end right now. Happy to finally get this one posted! 

For the past month, I have been sharing ideas and activities for teaching fractions. To continue that support, I have decided to continue this series through the month of December to share more ways to help students develop a deeper understanding of fractions. 

Today's post specifically addresses the following Common Core State Standard for Math:
3.NF.3.A.3- Understand two fractions as equivalent (equal) if they are the same size, or the same point on the number line. 

Using math tools to show equivalence provides a natural opportunity for students to find equivalent fractions and develop the essential understanding that in order to be equivalent, the wholes must be the same size and the portion size must be the same as well. 

All too often, we encourage students to move to being able to generate equivalent fractions before they have had opportunities to recognize visual models of them. In today's activity, students explore creating equivalent fractions that have the same size whole and visually show the same covered area. 

This activity is called "Ways to Show ____" and allows students the opportunity to explore a set of fraction tools and create a poster of fraction pictures that are equivalent to a specific fraction. (Note: If you are concerned about your students' drawing skills, ask them to trace the fraction tools with a pencil to create the pictures.) 

The beauty of this activity is that students can use any available fraction tools to create their posters. This allows students the opportunity to see that the size of specific fractions differ based on the size of the whole. For example, half of the hexagon pattern block is smaller than half of the whole fraction bar. This helps students develop the essential understanding that the wholes must be the same size in order to compare them. 

This activity makes a great exploratory activity and can be used to help students make connections between the equivalent fractions and look for relationships between their numerators and denominators as well as compare them to the original fraction. Be careful though, in order to develop the most solid understanding of this skill, students must make the connections and discover the relationships on their own. 

This picture includes a set of fraction pattern blocks (brown right trapezoid and purple right triangle) that can be ordered from several math companies to extend the use of your pattern block sets. Contact your district's math manipulatives vendor to see if they are available. 

Free Resource Alert! Check out this freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store to help your students develop the understanding of the importance of using the same size whole to compare fractions. Click here or on the picture to download it from my store! 

Sound Off! How do you use math tools to teach fractions in the classroom?


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