Fractions for Kids: How to Teach Math Fractions to Young Kids

Without the proper visual aids, fractions can be an extremely difficult concept for kids to grasp. However, if you combine visuals with hands-on activities, even young kids will gain a basic understanding for fractions. Here's one of the ways to teach them.

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How to Teach Fractions to Any Young Kid

Entice Them

Many young kids have trouble sitting in one place and concentration for long durations of time. Here are several tips for keeping young kids interested in what you need to teach them.

  1. Get the most out of the first lesson. Kids generally pay more attention to something new, so be sure you present carefully and fully in the first lesson.
  2. Use visual aids and manipulatives when teaching fractions to help the students visualize the concept. For example, use half a pizza to represent the fraction 1/2.
  3. Over the course of time, update your materials. Many kids get bored if they use the same manipulatives or games day after day (although sometimes you find a 'hit' that they'll clamor for on a daily basis - keep using that one as long as they're interested).
  4. Generally, keep the duration of an activity to 30 minutes or less because young kids' attention spans are short.
  5. Keep it simple.

Start with Linear Models

A linear model, rather than circular or pie model, can more clearly compare the relative sizes of fractions. There are several types of linear models, including fraction charts and stairs. Select the model that you think would be best for your students.

Make Fraction Charts

A fraction chart can be drawn on the board or demonstrated with strips of paper. To create a fraction chart, start with a long rectangle; write a '1' in the center.

Draw a joining rectangle just below it, and divide it in half; mark each half as ½. Explain what you are doing, using the proper fractional terms, including numerator and denominator. Draw a third rectangle and divide it into thirds, with each part marked 1/3. You can continue this until you have up to ten levels.

Next, give each child ten strips of paper, each a different color. For accuracy, and to save a little time, have the lines marked for them. Students will then cut the strips into two, three - up to ten pieces. Instruct your students to write the fractions on the pieces of paper and to read them aloud.

When the strips have been marked and cut, each child has a puzzle to play with from time to time. Later on, you can use these pieces to introduce how to count fractions. For example, 1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3.

Make Fraction Stairs

Using the fraction pieces the children have made, teach them how to make fraction stairs. Begin with the bar for '1' as the bottom stair. Then put ½ (just one of the pieces) above it as the second stair, 1/3 as the third stair, and so on. Emphasize that the larger the number in the denominator is, the smaller the fraction will be.

Compare Fraction Sizes

Once the children understand how to compare fractions when the numerators are the same, they can combine several fractions with like denominators, and visually compare which combinations are larger and which are smaller. Ask fraction-comparing questions such as:

  • How many halves (or thirds or fifths, etc.) does it take to make a whole?
  • What's the same as 2/4? (1/2, 4/8, etc.)
  • What's half of ½? (or ¼ or 1/3, etc.)

Add Variety

Read Stories

There are many fraction stories available for young children. You can use them to introduce fractions, to review fractions and to aid retention. Some stories include:

  • Fraction Fun by David A. Adler
  • The Wishing Club: A Story about Fractions by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Whole-y Cow: Fractions Are Fun by Taryn Souders

Sing Songs

You can find fraction songs on CDs, websites or you can make up your own (with or without the aid of the kids). One song that your students may enjoy is 'Alligator Fractions' by Jennifer Fixman on her album We Love Math with Miss Jenny. 'Fractions (1/2, 1/3 and 1/4)' on Kathleen Wiley's album Math: Sing Your Way to Easy Learning is another song for young children.

Get a Different Teacher

Sometimes kids can retain a concept better if they hear the same lesson taught by more than one person. Rather than having other teachers from your school come to your classroom (although that would work), you can find a host of teachers who can present fractions through videos the Internet.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

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