09 Jan 2016

Fractions Made Visible – and Fun

Cake fractions
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The aptly named website, “Visual Fractions,” shows fraction concepts and operations the way I teach them – from a visual basis. Although it is standard for math curricula to introduce fractions visually, most of them drop the visualization too early. Worse, when many children are just starting to grasp these concepts, they are expected to move onto the next ones before they have practiced and explored enough to feel confident and remember what they need to do.

The “Visual Fractions” website not only explains fractions and their operations visually but also provides interactive “design-your-own” and game activities to entice students into more practice. It also has downloadable tests and pretests.

Almost every middle school and high school student I have tutored came to me still struggling with fractions. By middle school, such students feel lost and have come to believe they are “bad at math.” I often wonder why more schools don’t provide tailored workshops for kids who are still struggling, particularly in fractions and percent, long division, and story problems. These tricky areas can be made much easier and less frustrating if they are taught well and children have plenty of time to practice. Waiting until middle or high school to get remedial instruction in these basics is waiting far too long. The “Visual Fractions” website definitely fills a need, and teachers, parents and students would do well to give it a look.

(The visual emphasis is similar to Montessori’s approach, which is not only visual but also hands-on. Even preschool children discover fraction concepts including equivalency and operations through manipulation of these materials before they learn how to read and solve written equations, which are much more abstract. Although young children typically enjoy the manipulative materials, older children sometimes tire of these and may benefit from using this site to complement their Montessori lessons.)

Measuring - Fractions of an inch
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

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