Beginning Fractions for Children

Formal instruction in fractions typically begins in third grade. Visual aids often are used to help students understand this new math concept. At home, you can prepare your child for fraction units through activities and practice problems.

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How to Prepare Your Child for Learning Fractions

Many children may have only worked with whole numbers before beginning their first fraction unit in third grade, though they may have encountered other types of numbers in lessons involving time or money. Whole numbers can be easy for kids to conceptualize because they can see that one object is equivalent to the number one. Fractions, on the other hand, are harder for kids to visualize because they are a part of a whole number.

Before entering third grade, first and second graders partition shapes into halves, thirds and fourths. This activity lays the foundation for fractions because they are dividing a whole into parts. At home, have your child create shapes and divide them into equal parts.

One of the easiest ways to think about fractions is as a part of a whole. Start by introducing your child to the fraction 1/2. One half is a good place to start because it is one of the easier fractions to conceptualize. Think of 1/2 as one of two parts.

One of the best ways to teach fractions is by using a visual aid. For example, when eating pizza, point out to your child when one half of it is gone. Tell him that only one out of the two halves that make up a whole pizza is remaining. In other words, there is only 1/2 of the pizza left.

A number line is another way for your child to understand fractions. Most beginning fractions are less than one. For instance, 1/2 comes exactly between zero and one.

Beginning Fraction Problems

1. Cut out a circle using construction paper. Now, cut the circle into three equal pieces. Then, remove one piece. How many remain?

Two out of three pieces remain. Explain to your child that two out of three is the fraction 2/3.

2. On a number line, label 1/2 with a star.

To make this problem easier, draw a number line with zero and one already labeled. Then, your child only needs to understand that 1/2 is halfway between zero and one. The star may make the activity more fun and enjoyable.

3. A pizza is cut into five slices. Two of the slices are eaten. How many of the original five slices remain?

First, your child has to complete a basic subtraction problem (5 - 2 = 3). There are three out of five slices remaining, which is the fraction 3/5.
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