What is a Fraction?

29 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify parts of a whole.

Big Idea

Fractions represent parts of a whole and parts of a set.


15 minutes

You already know how to create equal groups when you divide, which is going to help us when we are learning about equal parts of a whole and equal parts of a set or group of things. Here is the most magical piece of paper. I want to share it with you, so I’m going to make sure we each have half! I actually rip the paper in half, making sure 1 piece is (accidentally) much larger than the other. Ok, now here you go! Here’s your half! (and I give them the small piece).

Here we stop to talk about what makes something a half. Students respond about a line down the middle, cut up perfectly in the center etc). Students should be connecting their knowledge about the term 'half' to make sense of half representing equal parts (MP7). 

We watch a BrainPop video (Parts of a Whole) to reinforce the idea and introduce new vocabulary. You have to pay for an account on BrainPop (which will also work for BrainPopJr) but their short video and extension activities can be useful to introduce a topic or reinforce vocabulary. If you don’t have BrainPop, there are other free resources online that are quite good for cementing student thinking of fractions as “parts of a whole”.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

There are new words that we’re going to need to know for fractions, too! You’re going to need to know what a numerator, denominator and a fourth is from today and for the rest of your life!

Here I introduce a Fractions Anchor Chart of vocabulary and pictorial models of fractions. It is incredibly important for students have visual anchors within the classroom as they learn new concepts. It allows students to refer to concrete representations, which is a step to developing internal visualizations on the journey to mastery! 

Now I’ve been hearing some great thinking about what a fraction “is” and “is not” and so I’m going to need your help to make sure I see examples of what are fractions and what are not.

I will also use this chart in the room so that students have a visual example of objects divided into equal parts, and ones that are not. I call students up to help illustrate examples.

Wow, what brilliant work! This is really going to help us as we move forward to see these examples! I call on a student to tell me why the top shows examples and why the bottom part shown non-examples.


15 minutes

I was thinking about all of our new vocabulary and I thought you might need some reminders in your journals, too! We review the words and their meaning together, and then cut and paste them into the math journals. (picture)

While students are cutting and pasting vocabulary into their journals I am writing a couple of quick example of fractions on the board (picture).

I want you to think about the words we just learned, and what it means to be part of a whole or set, to solve these problems! Make sure you read each word carefully, because we are not always looking for the same part in every problem!

Here I want students to be able to correctly place the numerator and denominator for each problem, as well as to identify the correct part and whole for each problem. 

Closing/ Check for Understanding

5 minutes

Wow, it’s only been one day and you’re already on your way to becoming fraction experts!

Here I ask questions of students about what we learned for the day. Key questions: What number goes on top? Why? What number goes on bottom? Why is it important that my numbers are in the correct place? What does it mean to have half of something?

I do another check for understanding as an exit ticket. Students much write something they learned about fractions today on a notecard before they go to lunch. I do this so that I can quickly identify which students may need additional intervention with fractions. I will pull any students aside the following day when we begin independent work in math to make sure they understand the concepts.