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Part One: Insights into childrens understanding of the mathematics

content area (700 words)

It is widely agreed that fractions are an essential part of the middle years
mathematical content and are an integral part of mathematical proficiency (Clarke,
Roche & Mitchell, 2008; Vukovic et al., 2014). Fractions, both support the
development of proportional reasoning and provides an important foundation for
future mathematics study, including algebra and probability (Clarke et al., 2008;
Spangler, 2011). Therefore, the aim for teaching fractions is not for its practical
real world application, but mainly as a foundation for further learning and
scaffolding other mathematical concepts (Hurrell, 2013). However, despite its
importance in mathematical learning, research suggests that fractions are a major
source of difficulty in mathematics for many students (Vukovic, 2014). According to
Van de Walle (2012), Fractions have always represented a considerable challenge
for students (p. 293). Not only do studies claim that fractions are difficult to learn
but also that students often struggle to retain prior fraction learning experiences
and unable to recognize accurate visual representations of fractions (Groff, 1996;
Ploger & Rooney, 2005).

Gould, Outhred and Mitchelmore (2006) conducted an investigation to better

understand student reasoning, difficulties and misconceptions when it came to
fractions (via Bruce & Ross, 2009). In the investigation, students had to
demonstrate one half, one third and one sixth on a circle model. They found that
most students were successful when it came to shading in one half of a circle,
however one third and one sixth received a variety of answers. The large majority
of the students showed a number of pieces approach to shading the fractions in
the circle and most errors suggested that students were using counting strategies
to assist in their partitioning. For example, one student partitioned a circle into 8
sections and then shaded 6 of these to represent 1/6 (Bruce & Ross, 2009, p. 3).
Educators and researchers agree that this difficulty is an issue and have explored
possible explanations. The following explanations have been highlighted: 1)
fractions are not used in daily life regularly; 2) the written notation of fractions is
complicated; 3) too much time is devoted to teaching the procedures of
manipulating rational numbers and too little time is spent teaching their conceptual
meaning; 4) when introduced, rational numbers are not sufficiently differentiated
from whole numbers; (Bruce & Ross, 2009, p. 3) 5) the design of instruction is
usually not engaging for students (Bruce & Ross, 2009).

According to research, students arrive at school with an already developing

concept of fractions, ratios and proportionality, largely due to the concept of
sharing (Hurrell, 2013; Vukovic et al., 2014; Ploger & Rooney, 2005). However, there
is a chance that the concepts they have developed are partially developed or
misunderstood. Research shows that students have misconceptions that stem from
their previous knowledge that interferes with their understanding of rational
number (Martinie, 2005, p. 6). Hence, it is important that understanding fractions
as a concept precedes asking students to perform operations with them (Hurrell,
2013; Clarke et al., 2008; Spangler, 2011).

It has been suggested that learning fractions suffers because of whole

number bias; where the students apply their understanding of whole numbers to
solving fractions (Vukovic et al., 2014). This overgeneralisation is problematic
because leads to a difficulty in understanding. For example, in whole numbers each
number in the sequence is greater in size than the previous number (5 follows 4),
however in fractions this is not the case (1/4 is larger than 1/5) (Vukovic et al.,
2014). This is a common misconception made by students. As well as this, Naiser,
Wright and Capraro (2004) found that teachers have struggled to engage students
in fraction learning and that a significant portion of class time is using pencil-paper
techniques and rote learning (via Bruce & Ross, 2009). According to Ploger and
Rooney (2005), a deeper understanding of fractions is achieved through an
emphasis on understanding rather than memorisation and the inclusion of visual
models and hands-on activities and tools, such as paper folding, Cuisenaire rods
and even computer programs (Clarke et al., 2008).

Overall, students struggle understanding fractions more than many of the

other mathematical concepts. In order to improve student understanding and
success with fractions conceptual understanding should be developed before
computational fluency (Cramer et al., 2002 via Spangler, 2011, p. 112).
Part Two: Critical discussion regarding links with curriculum
documentation (300 words)

When teaching fractions, the research above highlighted that a common error
made is not enough focus is placed on students understanding fractions as a
concept and moving students to computation with fractions too quickly (Clarke, et
al., 2008). This research is obviously considered in the Victorian Curriculum, as
computation with fractions isnt introduced until level five and it is only the addition
and subtraction of fractions in primary school learning. The scope and sequence of
the Victorian curriculum for teaching fractions focuses on providing students with a
clear understanding of fractions first and then offers the support for students to
progress to computation. Fractions are not introduced in the curriculum until level
one, however the foundations of fractional thinking are introduced earlier in
foundation level- represent practical situations to model sharing (Victorian
Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2016). In level one, there is a focus on
developing some of the concepts of fractions students already have, particularly
sharing and 1/2. Similarly to the research above, the Victorian curriculum
emphasises the use of visual models and hands-on activities and tools, particularly
paper folding and representing fractions on a number line.

Despite the curriculum appropriately scaffolding the students learning of

fractions, there are still areas that need improvement. According to research into
possible explanations of the difficulty of fractions for students, it is important for
fractions to be seen as relevant and used regularly, as well as a greater focus in
understanding the written notation of fractions. Also, teachers need to take the
time to differentiate fractions from whole numbers to avoid any conceptual
confusion. These areas are not specified in the curriculum and need to be a focus in
order for there to be an improvement in how difficult and confusing fractions are for

Part Three: Planning for learning of the mathematics content area (1000
Include your plan using the template below.
Topic: Equivalent Fractions Year Level: 4 Term: 2 Week: 3 Date: 18/04/2016
Intended Learning Focus/Intentions (taken directly from Victorian Curriculum documents):
Content strand(s): Number and Algebra Measurement and Geometry Statistics and Probability
Sub-strand(s): Fractions and Decimals

Level content descriptions:

Investigate equivalent fractions used in contexts (VCMNA157).

Compare and order common fractions and locate and represent them on a number line (VCMNA187).

Proficiency strand(s):
Understanding Fluency Problem Solving Reasoning
Students will understand that fractions can be equivalent in Students will use there fractional thinking to solve unfamiliar problems.
size even if they look different. Students can partition a whole into parts.
Students will connect the partitioning of simple fractions to Students can compare and order simple fractions.
equivalent fractions. Students will justify and explain their mathematical thinking.
Students will describe their mathematical thinking.

Common misconceptions (related to the Success criteria - Key skills to develop Equipment / resources:
mathematical idea/topic): and practise (observable capabilities) Interactive White board
Coloured paper strips (all same length)
Partition strips into fractions
Understand equivalent fractions as a Maths books
rule, such as multiply or divide the Order fractions on a number line Writing utensils
numerator and denominator of a Cuisenaire rods
Use representations and resources to
fraction by the same number (Wong & Computers/iPads
Evans, 2011, p. 82). This can lead to assist in problem-solving, such as
Cuisenaire rods, play dough. Play dough
students applying the rule even when
Simple fraction cards
it is inappropriate.
Students think that the numerator and String
denominator are separate values (Van Key vocabulary: Pegs
de Walle, Karp & Bay-Williams, 2012). Proper Fraction Assessing Students Understanding of Fraction
This means that when students look at Equivalence by Monica Wong & David Evans
equivalent fractions that they will not Equivalent
Fraction Fiddle: comparing unit fractions.
see them as the same value and see Numerator http://www.scootle.edu.au/ec/viewing/L2802/index.ht
the numbers separate values. ml
Students use whole number bias Denominator
when comparing fractions. For
example when comparing 1/4 and 1/5
students will think that 1/5 is a larger Equally share
fraction as 5 is bigger than 4 (Vukovic
et al., 2014). Greater than, less than, same as
Students use the rule that the bigger
the number on the bottom, the bigger
the fraction. This results in ordering
fractions incorrectly. Eg. Think that 1/6
is bigger than 1/2 (Vukovic et al.,

Students think that the size of a

fraction depends solely on the number
at the bottom (denominator) and you
can ignore the top (numerator). Eg. To
think that 1/4 is bigger than 7/8
(Clarke et al., 2008).
A task is presented that is - Enabling prompts
(As individuals or co- CONNECTIONS
relevant to the focus of the Scaffolding strategies to
What do you want students to operative groups) This section should include the
understand and/or be able to lesson; sets the scene/ context An extended opportunity for SESSION support students who are source of data (e.g. work
for what students do in the (As a whole class) having difficulty making
do by the end of the lesson? students to work on a rich, samples, individual
independent individual or co- The whole class shares progress on the task. This must
Note that the same focus may open ended task. Time for conferences, test scripts,
operative group part, e.g., the approaches to the task. The include key questions.
be used over several linked teacher to observe childrens physical models, interviews,
hook may be a problem, an teacher selects students or - Extending prompts
lessons. thinking, to manage task self-assessments) and the focus
open-ended question, a game, groups to share, poses Scaffolding strategies to
behaviour, rove and interact of the assessment as a
a picture of artefact, a film or questions and summarise ideas support student who make
with students, or work with a Students can statement
youtube clip , a story, etc. to draw out the mathematics substantial progress on the task
small group for part of the time. (aligns to focus).
and assist children to make and need to advance their Note: Sessions need not have
connections. NB. This may thinking further. This must different assessments, one
occur at several points during a include changes to the task and strategy may operate for the
lesson followed by more key questions. whole unit.
To assess prior Give the students 8 In pairs, using their Enable prompt: Observe how students
Session 1 knowledge of strips of coloured fraction wall, the Students can use partition the strips.
Creating a Fraction fractions, brainstorm paper (all same students will make Cuisenaire rods or a Observe class and
Wall and making on what fractions are length). Specify one connections and find completed fraction peer discussions,
connections. and how we use them colour and ask the relationships between wall to assist in the particularly listening
in everyday life. Eg. students to hold it up. the fractions. The task. for the vocabulary
Sharing a chocolate One strip will students will write Which part are used throughout.
bar in half with a represent one whole, these relationships you finding
friend. then ask the students down in their books. difficult?
to fold each strip in to Eg. One whole is the What does this Students can partition
equal halves, thirds, same as 2/2, 4/4, 8/8 fraction a whole into simple
forths, sixths and etc, 1/2 = 2/4. Class mean/represent? fractions and make
eighths. Students will discussion on their Refer to the connections to
label each strip findings. The teacher whole equivalence.
according to their highlights that these
fractional connections are Extending prompt:
representation. equivalent fractions. Have students fold
Students will then With the assistance of the strip into fifths
place the strips into a the students, the and sevenths.
fraction wall, so the teacher will write up What fractions are
size of the fractions some common similar?
can be compared. equivalent fractions What connections
on the board for
can you find?
future reference.
Remind students Give students a The class discusses Enable prompt: Observe students
Session 2 about what we did fractional problem answers, Students may use through roving
Investigating last lesson and solving activity using demonstrates how their fraction wall conferences.
equivalent equivalent fractions. cuisenaire rods they reached their from the previous
fractions. Students watch (Appendix 1). The solution and makes lesson to assist. Students can problem
youtube clip on teacher will explain connections between What have you solve using the
equivalent fractions. the problem and give answers and done so far? Cuisenaire rods and
https://www.youtube.c an example before equivalent fractions. How would you make connections to
om/watch? the students start the explain this? equivalence.
v=BiCUCqiWOlo task individually. The Can you explain
students have to your answer?
come up with as Extending prompt:
many solutions as Students will be given
possible (Boucher, an extension task to
2014). do with the problem
(Appendix 1).
Missing number- Students each have Once the students Enable prompt: Observe and take
Session 3 equivalence. Give coloured play dough have completed the Students may use anecdotal notes of the
Investigating and students an on their desks. Using Kookaburra task, they their fraction wall students throughout
making expression between the play dough as a must work out the from the previous the activity and how
connections to two fractions but with tool, in pairs, the equivalent fractions lesson to assist. they come to their
equivalent number missing. students have to find for the answer and How are you going answer.
fractions Students are to solve the solution to the represent it. The class to partition your
the missing number, following problem: shares answers. worms? Explain Students can partition
using mini There are four hungry Are all parts a whole into simple
whiteboards to draw Kookaburras and only equal? fractions and make
and calculate. three worms. Share Extending prompt: connections to
the worms equally Add more equivalence.
Eg. between the kookaburras and
5/3 = ?/6 2/3= 6/? Kookaburras so that worms to the question
8/12=?/3 9/12=3/? they all can eat. How to make it harder. Eg.
much worm does Five kookaburras and
each kookaburra get? four worms to share.
Students are Do you notice an
suggested to roll the patterns forming?
play dough into
worms to assist with
the task (Wright,
Using a problem- The students will then Class reflects upon Enable prompt: Observe and take
Session 4 solving task, the practice this through the activity. The class Students can use anecdotal notes of the
Comparing simple teacher introduces an online game discusses using a Cuisenaire rods or a students throughout
fractions. comparing fractions Fraction Fiddle: number line to completed fraction the activity and class
to the class. The comparing unit represent fractions. wall to assist in the discussion.
teacher and students fractions. Using the fractions task.
will complete the task http://www.scootle.ed from the problem- How does the Students can
together using a u.au/ec/viewing/L2802 solving task at the models in the compare simple
fraction wall to assist. /index.html beginning of the game assist in fractions using length
The task is: The horse lesson, place the answering the models and number
and a cow are very This game allows the fractions on a number question? lines.
hungry. Each gets one students to compare line as a class. What do you
bale of hay. The cow simple fractions, as think?
eats two-thirds of the well as represents Extending prompt:
hay and the horse them using length The online game can
eats three-fifths of the models and number be placed at a higher
hay. Who eats more lines. level, hence more
hay, the cow or the challenging fractions
horse? (Wright, 2016) will be used.
How does a
number line help
you answer the
Teacher has two The students are Students will share Enable prompt: Observe students
Session 5 simple fractions- 1/3 placed into groups of their number lines to Students may use through roving
Comparing and and 1/4. As a class, four and are given the class and justify it. their fraction walls conferences. Take
ordering simple work together to cards with simple Teacher will assist to and Cuisenaire rods to note of their
fractions, represent both fractions on it, string achieving the correct assist them in the strategies, vocabulary
including fractions on a number and some pegs. The order if necessary. task. and how they
equivalent line. Teacher shows students, using their Students will then Where is the explain/justify.
fractions. the class two different fraction walls, have to reflect upon the task. beginning of the
fractions- 1/2 and 4/8. place the cards onto number line? Students can
Teacher asks What the string in the Where is the end? compare and order
do we notice about correct order as if it is Have you simple fractions on a
these two fractions?. a number line. The compared the number line.
Teacher prompts students will then fractions first?
students towards write why they order Extending prompt:
equivalent fractions. the fractions the way Include more
they did and how they challenging fractions
did it. Teacher will for students to order.
move between groups Are they in the
providing assistance.
right order? Justify

Boucher, D. (2014, February 14). Fractions on a number line with Cuisenaire Rods
[Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.mathcoachscorner.com/2014/02/fractions-

Bruce, C. D., & Ross, J. (2009). Conditions for Effective Use of Interactive On-line
Learning Objects: The case of a fractions computer- based learning sequence. The
Electronic Journal of Mathematics and Technology, 3(1), 12-29.

Clarke, D. M., Roche, A., & Mitchell, A. (2008). 10 Practical Tips for Making Fractions
Come Alive and Make Sense. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 13(7),

Groff, P. (1996). Is Teaching Fractions a Waste of Time?. The Clearing House: A Journal
of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 69(3), 177-179.

Hurrell, D. (2013). Effectiveness of teacher professional learning: enhancing the

teaching of fractions in primary schools. Retrieved from

Martinie, S. (2005). Assessing conceptual understanding of rational numbers and

constructing a model of the interrelated skills and concepts. Retrieved from

Ploger, D., & Rooney, M. (2008). Teaching Fractions: Rules and Reason. Teaching
Children Mathematics, 12(1), 12-17.

Smart Learning for All. (2005). Equivalent Fractions for Kids [video file]. Retrieved from

Spangler, D. B. (2011). Strategies for Teaching Fractions: Using Error Analysis for
Intervention and Assessment. California, USA: Corwin.

The Learning Federation. (2011). Fraction fiddle: comparing unit fractions [video file].
Retrieved from https://www.scootle.edu.au/ec/viewing/L2802/index.html

Van de Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S., & Bay- Williams, J. M. (2012). Elementary and Middle
School Mathematics- Teaching Developmentally. USA: Allyn & Bacon.

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2016). Mathematics Curriculum F-10.

Retrieved from http://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/mathematics/curriculum/f-

Vukovic, R. K., Geary, D. C., Gersten, R., Fuchs, L. S., Jordan, N. C., & Siegler, R. S.
(2014). Sources of Individual Differences in Childrens Understanding of Fractions.
Child Development, 85(4), 1461-1476.

Wong, M., & Evans, D. (2011). Assessing Students Understanding of Fraction

Equivalence. In Fractions: Teaching for Understanding (pp. 81-90). Adelaide,
Australia: The Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers Inc.
Wright, V. (2016). Lecture 4: Rational Number Fractions [PowerPoint slides].
Retrieved from https://leo.acu.edu.au/course/view.php?id=20661&section=8

Appendix 1:

Using the Cuisenaire rods, find out what Z is on the number line. Come up
with as many solutions possible.