To Be a Fraction, Or Not To Be, That is the Question

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Students will be able to communicate their understanding of what a fraction is and is not by creating a video using their artwork as examples.

Big Idea

Using technology and art to engage students in the concept of "equal parts" of a whole as a fraction is the goal of today's lesson.


10 minutes

To begin the lesson today, I ask the children to put out the artwork they created as homework the night before. Their task was to use whole, halves, fourths, and eighths of the same size circles to create an image. 

Students take a minute to organize the display of their work, and then tour the classroom to view everyone's "art". I remind them that this is art, and they need to look not only at the art, but to think about the fractions.  After 2 minutes, I ask the children to gather. 

As they finish and return to their seats, I choose two different student pieces to discuss as a whole class. One of the art pieces, while beautiful, is made of various shapes, none of which are fractions. This lesson is all about attending to precision, which is Mathematical Practice 6. That is why I spend so much time in this discussion.

The other design has some fractions and some "pieces" of a whole.  

I ask the students to think about these pieces of art, and then discuss and defend their thinking with the class. The student in this video is explaining how he understands halves. 

I also interview the artists in order to give them the opportunity to revise their thinking, as you will see in this clip. The opportunity to revise thinking and communication is the best learning there is. If we don't supply this time for students, the chance to learn deeply in a meaningful way is lost.

(Don't be distracted by the SlideStoppers on their desks.  Those are an invention of mine to help organize and prevent supplies from falling off the lift top desks.)

Active Engagement

25 minutes

Discussing, and showing examples, of what is not a fraction is just as important as thinking about the criteria of a fraction. I challenge my students to use their own artwork to think in that way as they teach others about fractions using the application ShowMe.

This is a video for you on how to use the ShowMe app.  If you have not had your students do this, I create an account that they all sign into so I can access their videos.  I also have the students take photos of their work with their iPad, and then access it through the ShowMe app. That way, if there is a mistake, the photo is not lost.

In this project, I am looking for students to be able to explain why their pieces are fractions, or why they are not fractions. Understanding the equal parts and unit fraction is a fundamental phase of understanding fractions and is critical to future work with this concept, so don't go too fast through this seemingly simple step.

In this ShowMe, the student is teaching us that his piece is made of all fractional pieces. I am glad he drew the other half of the whole and explained that fractions have to be equal. 


The student in this video figured out how to create 16ths and used them in his project. This is a great assessment for me and discussing with him how he did it will be my conferring topic with him in the next session.  I also love his new word, "unfractional"!


Journal Response

15 minutes

As students complete their ShowMe video and are waiting for a partner to share with, I ask them to record in their journals what a fraction is and is not. This record includes words and pictures. Writing to convey understanding in math is a critical skill, set as well as another way to communicate understanding and to use the vocabulary in a different way. 

Wrap Up

10 minutes

In order to celebrate their videos and the learning of equal partitions of a whole to create fractions, I have students share their videos with each other in a casual way.  Sometimes just letting them share without an assignment frees them to revise as they see fit. 

In our next lesson, I will have several students share their videos with the class and we will discuss what was helpful in learning the concept of fractions, and what could have been done to improve the video as a teaching tool.  

We will also ask other second and third grade classes to view our videos and let us know what they learned.