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Beyond Pizzas & Pies:
Suppor.ng Frac.on Sense
mathsolu.ons.com/presenta.ons
Julie McNamara
CMC‐ South/Palm Springs/November 2010
Students’ Challenges with Frac.ons
•  What are some of the biggest challenges
students face with frac.ons?
+
7%
A.
1
B.
2
24%
28%
C.
19
27%
D.
21
14%
E.
I don’t know
2
“The diﬃculty with frac.ons (including
decimals and percents) is pervasive and
is a major obstacle to further progress in
mathema.cs. .
.”
—Report of the Na,onal Math Panel,
March 2008
3
In one minute, write down everything
that comes to mind when you think
4
In one minute, write down everything that
comes to mind when you think about or
see:
9
5
•  What similari.es do you see?
•  What diﬀerences do you see?
•  Any surprises or insights?
6
(Adapted from Kathy Richardson, NCTM 2008)
•  Young children ini.ally consider numbers as
–  9 bears
–  20 students
•  Eventually, they come to understand numbers
as nouns or concepts–
–  9 is half of 18,
–  It is 1 less than 10,
–  It is 4.5 doubled,
–  It is 3 squared,
–  It is the square root of 81,
–  ………?
7
•  Students need opportuni.es to transi.on from
–  1/2 of a pizza
–  3/4 of an hour
–  2/3 of a cup
•  to considering them as nouns –
–  5/8 is a liile more than 1/2, but less than 1
–  It is 3/8 less than 1
–  It is equivalent to 10/16
–  It is twice 5/16
–  It is half of 1¼
–  ……… ? ..
8
“It may be surprising that, for most students,
to think of a ra.onal number as a number
– as an individual en.ty or a single point
on a number line – is a novel idea.”
—Adding it Up: Helping Children Learn Mathema,cs,
Na.onal Research Council, 2001
9
Which frac.on has a value closest to ½?
A.  5/8
B.  1/6
C.  2/2
D.  1/5
Which frac.on has a value closest to ½?
A.  5/8
B.  1/6
C.  2/2
D.  1/5
25%
6%
41%
26%
Why are frac.ons so hard?
•  Frac.on nota.on – numbers must be
considered in new ways
•  Prac.ces that simplify and/or mask the
meaning of frac.ons
•  Overreliance on whole number knowledge
•  Many meanings of frac.ons
What is Frac.on Sense?
“Frac.on sense implies a deep and ﬂexible
understanding of frac.ons that is not
dependent on any one context or type of
problem. Frac.on sense is .ed to common
sense: Students with frac.on sense can reason
about frac.ons and don’t apply rules and
procedures blindly ‐ nor do they give
frac.ons.”
Common Core State Standards
“Asking a student to understand something
means asking a teacher to assess whether the
student has understood it. But what does
mathema.cal understanding look like? One
hallmark of mathema.cal understanding is the
ability to jus.fy, in a way appropriate to the
student’s mathema.cal maturity, why a
par.cular mathema.cal statement is true or
where a mathema.cal rule comes from.”
Common Core State Standards
Number and Opera.ons – Frac.ons
Grade 3: Develop understanding of frac.ons as
numbers.
Grade 4: Extend understanding of frac.on
equivalence and ordering.
Grade 5: Use equivalent frac.ons as a strategy
Beyond Pizzas & Pies:
10 Essen,al Strategies for
Suppor,ng Frac,on Sense
#1
Provide opportuni.es for students to work with
irregularly par
..
oned,
and unpar
..
oned,
areas, lengths, and number lines.
#2
Provide opportuni.es for students to
inves.gate, assess, and reﬁne mathema.cal
rules and generaliza.ons.
#3
Provide opportuni.es for students to recognize
equivalent frac.ons as diﬀerent ways to name
the same quan.ty.
#4
Provide opportuni.es for students to work with
changing units.
#5
Provide opportuni.es for students to develop
their understanding of the importance of
#6
Provide meaningful opportuni.es for students
to translate between frac.on and decimal
nota.on.
#7
Provide opportuni.es for students to translate
between diﬀerent frac.on representa.ons.
#8
•  Provide students with mul.ple strategies for
#9
•  Provide opportuni.es for students to engage
in mathema.cal discourse and share and
discuss their mathema.cal ideas, even those
that may not be fully formed or completely
accurate.
#10
•  Provide opportuni.es for students to build on
their reasoning and sense making skills about
frac.ons by working with a variety of
manipula.ves and tools, such as Cuisenaire
rods, Paiern Blocks, Frac.on Kits, and
ordinary items from their lives.
The Problem with Par oning:
..
It’s Not Just About Coun.ng the
Pieces
What frac.on of the square is
shaded? Tell me how you know.
What frac.on is shown by B?
What frac.on is shown by B?
#1
Provide opportuni.es for students to work with
irregularly par
..
oned,
and unpar
..
oned,
areas, lengths, and number lines.
Unpar
..
oned
areas and
number lines.
Unequally par
..
oned
areas and
number lines
Top or Boiom:
Which One Maiers?
Circle the larger frac.on.
“If the denominator is smaller, the
piece is bigger.”
What frac.on of the square is
shaded? Tell me how you know.
“This one is bigger because there is
more pieces.”
#2
Provide opportuni.es for students to
inves.gate, assess, and reﬁne mathema.cal
rules and generaliza.ons.
•  Is it always true?
•  What do you think of
___________
’s
Understanding Equivalency:
How Can Double Be the Same?
#3
•  Provide opportuni.es for students to
recognize equivalent frac.ons as diﬀerent
ways to name the same quan.ty.
Measure the marker with
brown rods
1 and 2/4 brown rods
1 4/8 brown rods
Comparing Frac.ons: Do You Always
Need a Common Denominator?
Use a common denominator to
compare the frac.ons below.
#8
•  Provide students with mul.ple strategies for
Using the Cuisenaire Rods to
Par77on the Number Lines
0
1
Find a rod that ﬁts on the number
line exactly two ,mes.
Using the Cuisenaire Rods to
Par77on the Number Lines
1
0
Mark ½ on the number line
1
0
2/2
0/2
1/2
Con.nue using the rods to mark thirds, fourths,
sixths, and twelwhs on the other lines.
Inves.ga.ng Benchmark Frac.ons
Frac7ons Equal to ½
•  What do you no.ce about all of the frac.ons
that are equal to ½?
•  How does the numerator compare to the
denominator?
Which of these frac.ons can be compared
by using ½ as a benchmark?
Using Benchmarks
•  What other benchmarks could students use to
compare 2 frac.ons?
•  How could benchmarks help students with
frac.on opera.ons?
•  How does the use of benchmarks support the
development of students’ frac.on sense?
Frac.on Sense Strategies for
Comparing Frac.ons
Thank you!
To access the slides for this
mathsolu.ons.com/presenta.ons
What is Frac.on Sense?
“Frac.on sense implies a deep and ﬂexible
understanding of frac.ons that is not
dependent on any one context or type of
problem. Frac.on sense is .ed to common
sense: Students with frac.on sense can reason
about frac.ons and don’t apply rules and
procedures blindly ‐ nor do they give