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  • Writer's pictureJessica Kaminski

Fraction of a Set Using Visuals

Updated: Jan 3

Many people don't realize the complexities of teaching fractions until they try to help an 8 or 9-year-old student truly understand what parts of a whole actually represent. In fact, many students just follow the patterns present in fractions without really understanding what's happening. Instead of jumping straight to the abstract notation, we can follow Jerome Bruner's advice and ensure that every new topic is first introduced with a concrete representation to help students truly understand the idea of fractions.

In my opinion, the most challenging part about fractions is that they seem so abstract. I don't use them much in my every day language, and it can be challenging to visualize them. That's why it's so important students use a variety of visuals when working with fractions like fraction strips, fraction circles and number lines. These concrete items will help students to rely on visuals that will help them to apply the greater skills that actually involve fractions with operations. The fractional foundation is necessary in Grades 2-4 to truly help a student understand fractions operations.

Besides using manipulatives and visuals, real-life scenarios can help students to understand how and why they will need these foundations. My favorite and most popular task, Fraction Cookie Bakery Task, allows students to see how fractions are used and solve actual challenges that would be present in running a bakery. Even while working through a fraction chapter in a textbook, I always use this task as a way for students to move away from the procedures and focus on meaning.

As students begin the process of understanding a whole being divided into parts, we extend their understanding by challenging them to see a fraction of a set. This skills requires that students can visualize a whole in different ways- as parts of one object or parts of multiple objects. Without the foundations from the previous skills, the ability to find a fraction of a set would be lost.

However, we can again provide our students with LOTS of ways to make this applicable and meaningful to their real life!

  1. We can use manipulatives that can be sorted into groups. This will help students to see the meaning of a set and how it can be divided into equal groups. You can see an example from the Math with Purpose Video Library here.

2. Students can explore other real life scenarios where they might need to find a fraction of a set. I love incorporating literature into my lessons. I have found that Jump, Kangaroo, Jump by Stuart J. Murphey does a great job of introducing the idea at a basic level. Although it's a pretty basic book, students in Grades 2-4 can act it out by dividing students in the class and see how easy it is to break a set into fractional parts. You can find the book by clicking here or the book title above. (This is an Amazon affiliate link, and I do receive a small compensation when a purchase is made.)

3. It's time for students to practice. Usually this is one small lesson in the textbook, and students need to continue to practice in order for it to become second nature. The best way to practice this skill is through games, which you know I have provided for you with one simple click! This free download includes a matching card game with directions. I would encourage students to use colored counters or blocks when solving so they can show the groups. They can also draw the groups on a whiteboard similar to what you see in the above video.

Making fractions relevant and real will help your student have a strong foundation moving forward. Spending the time now will make the challenging content in Grades 5 and 6 go so much faster, because your students will have so much knowledge already!

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