Friday, November 21, 2014

About Teaching Fractions... How Third Grade Math Links to Sixth Grade Math

I had a conversation with an educator at Freeport Middle School recently about the great number of middle school students who still lack basic understanding of fractions.  While I have a great appreciation for Everyday Math and all the research that goes into it, a common criticism of the program over the years is that it hasn't addressed many math concepts deeply enough.   The spiral format allows students opportunities to experience and re-learn things they might have struggled with in the past, but often those learning experiences have been brief and far between.  Having taught middle school math in multiple districts (some were Everyday Math districts and some were not), my students often displayed learning deficits when it came to fractions.  And for the middle school teacher, that poses a far too common dilemma: Do I take extra time to teach them foundational mastery of fractions, or do I drag them through the unit with the limited understanding they currently possess?

There is good news on two fronts!  Firstly, Everyday Math is rolling out its latest edition of the program (Everyday Math 4), and from what we have seen in the new grade K-2 units we are piloting this year, there seems to be deeper exploration into key concepts.  The new edition of Everyday Math 4 is aligned to Common Core, which brings us to good news item number two:  The third grade Common Core standards emphasize teaching fractions not just pictorially, with fraction bars, rectangles, pizzas and divided quantities, but also representing fractions on a number line, so students can also become familiar with fractions as sequential numbers.

Understanding fractions is crucial for success in middle school, but having a rich learning experience involving hands-on opportunities, part-to-whole relationships, parts-of-quantities relationships, and placing fractions on a number line will also have a positive impact on our students' understanding and mastery of multiplication and division.

Below is a link to a short video that explains about how fractions are introduced in the Common Core math standards.   The video gets a little wonky around 1:30, but it only lasts a few seconds, so you shouldn't (?) have to take any dramamine.  It is worth watching, in my opinion.     :^)

Please contact me if you are looking for more strategies relating to teaching fractions.

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