Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Learning Fractions With Fun Fraction Games

As I’ve mentioned, fractions are confusing and are often the first conceptually abstract math kids experience. Kids don’t even need to have learning differences to struggle with fractions, they are confusing all on their own. To complicate things, schools and teachers often do a haphazard job of teaching fractions as well.
In my tutoring, I’ve seen textbooks completely ignore essential fraction concepts. The book will teach fractions step-by-step right up to that critical point and then gloss over major concepts like equivalents, reducing and borrowing in subtraction (which for fractions is different than ‘normal’ subtraction’).  In addition, having corresponded with several math teachers, there are teachers who are coasting and phoning it in due to burnout or other issues. I once asked a math teacher to explain the math theory for cross canceling in fractions* only to be met with silence followed by a grudging “I’ll have to look that up.”  It’s no wonder kids are confused!

So what can you do to help? Buy a set of these fraction cards. They are only $7.99 and you will get lots of use out of them.
When I first introduce these cards to my students, I have them sort and find all the equivalents to familiarize themselves with the deck and to help them relate a picture to the numerical fraction. This is great for visual learners and will really help them ‘see’ fraction relationships.
Depending on how they’ve sorted the deck, I then go through and point on that 2/6 is the same as 1/3 using the pictures so that they realize there’s more than one equivalent for each fraction.
Then we play Fraction War which requires the student to determine which fraction is larger. Fraction War helps solidify fraction relationships in their mind. From there, we graduate to fraction rummy. Rummy in of itself is not a terribly exciting game for me, but the fraction cards really make me (and my students) think.
For advanced students (i.e. those that consistently beat me in Fraction Rummy), I split the deck into 2 piles and we draw a card from each to create a random addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problem–whichever operation we decide to work on. Sometimes we end up with an unsolvable problem, which throws students and really works their critical thinking skills.
That’s several fraction games for kids for less than $10. Plus,the fact that it’s a game eliminates tension and worksheet angst.

In a while, after student gain familiarity on how to compute fractions, they should have some tools that will validate if their computation is wrong or correct. Fraction calculator is one of the tools that make the job done. Of all the Fraction calculators out there, Fraction Calc is the application I like the most. It shows the step by steps computation so that the student can see where they go wrong and can correct it right away.

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