Amazing Atoms - An Integrated Fraction Lesson

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SWBAT use fractions to compare atomic numbers of elements.

Big Idea

Fractions can help one understand the basic properties of elements.

Teacher Background

I always find it helpful to review specific content area knowledge prior to teaching a lesson like this and to that end I have Important Basic Concepts of Atoms links to some excellent and enjoyable online resources if you'd like a little extra background/a refresher before teaching this lesson! While students are not going to be able to deeply understand this very high level concept, it is still important that the teacher presentation is accurate.  One never knows what bits of information they will hold on to and call up in later years.  I introduce children to this topic because it's fascinating, interests them, and is fundamentally important.  I do not expect them to develop a deep understanding.  Rather, my hope is that while practicing the math skills through an examination of this subject, their interest in science will be further piqued.  

Basic Review

6 minutes

Use this Fractions Review as a brief guided review in order to insure that students clearly remember and understand that fractions can be both part of a whole or part of a whole GROUP. Working with fractions as part of a group is no longer a 3rd grade standards but it makes sense to discuss it, as many of the fractional relationships we deal with in everyday life have to do with parts of groups!


6 minutes

Ask students what they know about atoms.  

Choices:  Have the write down their ideas on paper, individually or as part of a small group.

Share out ideas and record them on chart paper. The length of this opener will depend on the background knowledge of your particular group of children.

Guided Activity

36 minutes

As you guide the children through the Amazing Atoms visual exploration, be sure to ask questions to continue to help students clarify the mathematical and scientific content.  

What is the relationship between fractions and multiplication?

What is an atom?

What are the parts within an atom?

What are the elements?

How is the atomic number of an element obtained?

I provide them with this Atoms Fractions Guided Practice page to record their answers. They use the back for recording details and unanswered questions.  

Here are some examples of student models that demonstrate how 3rd graders can tie the interesting concept of electrons in a given element to the idea of fractions!  


8 minutes

Encourage students to articulate the relationship between fractions and multiplication, as well as expressing thoughts about atoms and elements in their own words by using the Amazing Atoms Exit Ticket.  This is an activity they enjoy discussing at home too.  The idea of everything being made of these incomprehensibly small particles fascinates them.  Me too!