Learning Equivalent Fractions: Help for Struggling Students

Students in 3rd and 4th grade learn how to recognize equivalent fractions and explain why the fractions are equal. If you have a child who is struggling with fractions, keep reading for teaching strategies and activities you can use at home.

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Tips for Teaching Students about Equivalent Fractions

Explain with a Drawing

Sometimes all the possible explanations about equivalent fractions cannot compare to a simple drawing. Have your child draw two circles. Divide the first circle into two parts and color one part in. Then, tell your child to divide the second circle into six parts and color three in. These two drawings represent the same amount, but these amounts are expressed by two different fractions (1/2 and 3/6).

It can also be helpful to explain this concept using a physical object, like a pizza or a pie. Point out that if you divided a pizza into two enormous pieces and ate one of them, then you ate 1/2 of the pizza. Similarly, if you cut a pizza into six slices and ate three of them, you still ate 1/2 of the pizza.

Use Comparisons

For some kids, it may be helpful if they see examples of fractions that aren't equivalent. Draw three circles and divide them all into six parts. Color in two parts in the first circle, three in the second and five in the last circle. Then, ask your child to identify which circle is equivalent to 1/3. It may help if your student draws a circle to represent 1/3 before he or she begins.

Ask your child to explain his or her thinking after completing this activity. This think-aloud process will help you identify any errors in your student's understanding of the concept.

Create Fractions

If your child can successfully identify equivalent fractions, the next step is to create them. All you have to do is multiply the numerator and the denominator by the same number. For instance, 4/5 = 8/10 because 4 x 2 = 8 and 5 x 2 = 10. You can also reduce to create equivalent fractions (e.g., 3/9 = 1/3).

Have your child practice by playing a game. On index cards, write pairs of equivalent fractions, such as 2/3 and 6/9. Put the cards face down on a table. Then, players should take turns trying to make a match by flipping over two cards. If the fractions are equivalent, then the player keeps the cards. If the fractions are not equivalent, then the cards are put back into play.

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