How to Teach Kids About Improper Fractions
Mastering basic fractions is hard enough, but improper fractions can be even harder. You can help your child learn about improper fractions with these teaching tips.
Tips for Helping Kids Learn Improper Fractions
Understanding Basic Fractions
The first step to teaching kids about improper fractions is to make sure they understand the basic concept that a fraction is a whole divided into equal parts. You can use a graham cracker to demonstrate this concept because a whole graham cracker is easy to crack into four rectangles. After demonstrating the concept, take your child on a fractions scavenger hunt. Many household items can be divided; for example, you could cut paper into parts, slice a pizza or cake, or look at a ruler or measuring cup.
Explaining Mixed Numbers
Before kids can understand improper fractions, they need to understand mixed numbers. Graham crackers can also be used to explain this concept. Divide 1 graham cracker into 4 rectangles, and then set 1 rectangle next to a whole cracker. Explain how the graham crackers represent 1 whole and 1/4. Let your child experiment with other mixed numbers. For example, 2 whole crackers and 3 rectangles make 2 3/4.
Teaching Improper Fractions
After your child feels comfortable with mixed numbers, divide your whole graham crackers into 4 rectangles each. Explain that instead of writing a mixed number, we can show the entire number as a big fraction, called an improper fraction. Ask your child how many rectangles make a whole; he or she should understand that 4 make a whole. Then ask your child how many rectangles would make 1 1/4 and the other mixed numbers he or she played with.
Explain that the number of rectangles is the number on the top of the fraction, or the numerator. The number on the bottom of the fraction, or the denominator, is the number of parts that the whole can be divided into (in other words, the number of rectangles that make up 1 whole graham cracker). Point out that when the numerator is bigger than the denominator, it means that the fraction is more than 1.
Doing the Math
Once your child fully understands how improper fractions work, you can teach him or her how to quickly convert a mixed number into an improper fraction. Do this by multiplying the denominator by the whole. Add the product to the numerator. For example, if you want to convert the mixed number 3 4/9 into an improper fraction, first multiply the denominator 9 by the whole, 3. Since 9x3=27, you should then add 27 to the numerator, 4. Place the answer, 31, over the original denominator. Therefore, 3 4/9 written as an improper fraction is 31/9.
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