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Teaching Fractions as Part of the Common Core
posted by: Cindy Omlin | November 17, 2014, 11:18 PM   

As we all know, the Common Core State Standards reflect a major shift in how we ask students to think about and work with numbers. As reported by Education Week, strategies for how we teacher fractions are changing considerably. While students still need to understand that fractions are a part of a whole, the standards call for us to also teach students that fractions have their own distinct place on the number line and have values as numbers.

Fractions have long been one of the hardest concepts for students to understand, and so the CCSS do not just add an additional requirement into the already crowded curriculum. Instead, they’ve cleared out space in the standards for fractions to be taught at length and in depth. Proponents argue that fractions are a crucial step in deeper mathematical thinking, and that without a firm grasp on them, students will be unprepared for the harder concepts that follow. It’s essential that educators get this concept right. 

There are some basic strategies that teachers can use in order to help students better understand fractions. Encourage the understanding of the part-whole relationship early on by using concrete objects. Be careful, however, when choosing objects that the objects are easily recognizable as a whole when grouped together. For example, using pencils or rods to count out fractions and parts may confuse students by having them thing how many instead of how much of. 

While number lines are well-suited to the type of thinking that the Common Core asks students to do, number lines are much more abstract concepts than the using physical objects. For this reason, many experts are encouraging teachers to take ample time to introduce and practice using number lines before delving into more difficult concepts. 

Once number lines are introduced, however, they can be extremely useful. For example, number lines can be used to explore comparing fractions without having to teach students how to convert each fraction to the same denominator first. They can also help show the relative size of the denominators and illustrate to students why larger denominators are actually smaller numbers. They are also essential when introducing basic addition and subtraction of fractions to students. 

Looking for help on how to teach fractions in this new system? Try the following websites and Resources: 

Illustrative Mathematics Fractions Progression Module

LearnZillion’s bank of fraction video lessons

A Passion for Fractions video from the Teaching Channel

Uncomplicating Fractions to Meet Common Core, by NCTM

Teaching Fractions According to the Common Core, by H. Wu

Originally posted by Melissa at AAE.

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