Exploring Fractions with Games and Manipulatives

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Students will complete a post lesson assessment of fractions as an equal size partition of a whole and explore various fraction manipulatives and games.

Big Idea

At times, we all need to pre-assess our students with pencil and paper. What do you do when some are "done" and others are still working?

Warm Up

10 minutes

If  your class is like mine, they always want to know if the "test" counts.  Of course it counts! Everything we do in class counts.  I use this time to explain to my students that the pre-assessment helps me create engaging and relevant lessons for them.  I need them to show their best work.

Read through the assessment together, and explain that you are looking for answers, thinking and explanations.  Showing what that work looks like is critical to creating equitable, authentic assessments. Creating a community of students that are able to explain their understanding and phrase questions around what they may not understand is a yearlong task. Even on the assessment days you have an opportunity to work on developing these skills. 

The pre-assessment I use is from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  As you can see, I am only assessing whether they can identify equal fractions and if they are able to name larger fractions.  Knowing this will help me create strategy groups and lesson activities. 

Aside from explaining the assessment activity, I point out the games, blocks, and books that the students will explore when they complete the task. The goal of exploration is that students will be independent and self guided, so I'm not explicit with these directions. Some students may struggle with open ended activities because they are afraid to "make mistakes" or are oriented to "pleasing the teacher". I reassure these students, but do not give them more direction.  

Active Engagement

25 minutes

When students complete the assessment, they choose a game or book to explore and "play" with. We all know time to play and explore the manipulatives is an important step in introducing new tools. Using the open time following an assessment is a perfect time. Students are finishing at different times, and can engage in the activities at any point.

If you can, gather several games, iPad apps, books, and fraction building tools to choose from. There are games online you can print off that might be useful for your students. I have the game Pizza Fractions, Tower Fractions, Fraction Bingo, and I also put out fraction circles and fraction strips. Explain each of these very quickly to the students at that beginning of the session and encourage them to figure out how they work and what needs to be done to play the game.

I chose games that work with unit fractions, and using those to build fractions.  These games can then be used to support the understanding of comparing fractional parts of a whole. After a formal teaching and using of these games, they will be available to the students as tools while they communicate their thinking. Today is about getting their hands on them and attempting to figure out the basics. 

I love this teaching move because it places the students in a position of really making sense of the fractions as a tool to win the game. 

In this video, my students are working out how to build a whole. While discussing the directions of the game with them, I begin to explore how they might make a whole. You can see by what they already have on their towers that they are just putting pieces up. As they learn more about equivalent fractions, they will begin to strategize and play differently, which is the power of the game. 


10 minutes

In closing, we circle back to the assessment. Students share any part of the assessment they had a hard time with.  This is another excellent way to build mini lessons for future use, or just clear up a misconception quickly.