Mixed Numbers for 4th Grade Math Students

In 4th grade, students learn to add and subtract mixed numbers and convert mixed numbers into improper fractions. If your 4th grader could use a little extra practice with mixed numbers at home, try the following tips and activities.

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How to Teach 4th Graders about Mixed Numbers

Understanding Mixed Numbers

Mixed numbers are more complicated than basic fractions because they include three parts: the integer, the numerator and the denominator. Begin by making sure that your child can identify all three parts. In the mixed number 3 1/2, three is the integer, one is the numerator and two is the denominator.

Mixed numbers represent amounts that are greater than one. It can be helpful to explain them in the context of baking. If a recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of flour, then you would measure two full cups of flour and 1/4 of a cup of flour.

On a number line, this amount is between two and three. For practice, create a number line using whole numbers and have your child identify where a variety of mixed numbers would be on the line.

Explaining Improper Fractions

Mixed numbers can be turned into improper fractions, which are fractions that have numerators that are larger than their denominators. In other words, there are more 'parts' than the original 'whole' amount. If your child has trouble understanding this description, use visuals. If you have one whole pie (4/4) and two extra slices (2/4), then this amount could be represented by an improper fraction (6/4).

In addition and subtraction problems with mixed numbers, students must first change the mixed number into an improper fraction. Consider the problem 4 1/3 + 2/3. Begin by multiplying the denominator by the integer (3 x 4 = 12). Then, add the numerator (12 + 1 = 13). Now, put that number on top of the existing denominator, so the improper fraction is 13/3. Then, you can add like normal: 13/3 + 2/3 = 15/3 = 5.

This process may be tricky for your child at first, but you can help by creating a diagram. Write a mixed number on a piece of paper in large numbers. Then, get a blue pen and draw an arrow from the denominator to the integer. Write an 'x' next to the arrow to represent multiplication. Using a red pen, draw another arrow from the integer to the numerator and write a '+' next to it to represent addition. Now, your child has a diagram the he or she can refer to in the future.

Practice Activities

You can use real-world contexts to give your child extra practice with mixed numbers. The next time you are measuring something, have your child turn the measurement into an improper fraction. For instance, if a piece of wood is 15 3/4 feet long, he or she can turn that mixed number into 63/4 feet. Similarly, if you are baking, use those measurements (like 2 1/4 cups of flour) to create improper fractions (9/4 cups).

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