Teaching fractions – what do you need to know

What are the best methods to teach fractions?  They are a subject that is introduced into the curriculum at a young age.  What do students need to know at each stage?  Here we provide some tips on how to teach fractions to younger students.

Start Simple

With younger students in years 1 and 2 it’s best to start simple – with halves and quarters.  These are the easiest for them to understand at an early stage.  You should start with lower number to work with e.g. half of ten, then move up to larger numbers as they have a better understanding of the task.

Use objects and items

For Years 1 and 2 use objects and items to demonstrate what you mean when teaching fractions.  For example – if you want to show how to halve an amount you could start by using marbles or counters.  Divide these into different groups to show how to split the objects into two then four.

Move onto shapes

Once you have mastered dividing objects move onto understanding how to find a fraction in a shape.  For example – what is a quarter of a square?  What is half of a circle?  This is your chance to get creative – you can use colours or food to display fractions in a shape – for example dividing an apple in half or a pizza into quarters.

The next stage

As students move into year 2 they will have SATs to deal with and fractions will play a part of this, therefore it’s important they have a good grasp of simple fractions by this point.  They will also need to understand fractions of time – for example half past an hour.  As they move into Year 3 and 4 students will need to gain a move advanced understanding.

Trickier Tasks    

In Year 3 and 4 students need to understand more complex fractions such as what is a third.  Once again – this is your chance to be creative and you can use food for demonstration – for example putting icing on one third of a cake.

Students also need to learn how to calculate a fraction of a number e.g. ¼ of 20.  You could utilise objects once more to demonstrate this or colouring in is always a simple way to help kids visually.

It’s the same thing

In year 4 students will also need to understand how two fractions can be the same for example how 2/8 is the same as a quarter.  This is a great time to use a Fraction Wall if you haven’t heard of one before it’s simply a visual image of a fractions and how they relate to each other.  A simple google search will find one you can use in your classroom!

From fractions to decimals

Finally, as students move into their last years of primary schools they need to learn how fractions, decimals and percentages go hand in hand.  For example, that 0.25, ¼ and 25% are all the same.  You can use various methods discussed above to help students relate to this concept.

There are lots of ideas on how to teach fractions out there.  For more in our blog series read our other posts!

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