Fractions: Reviewing the Basics

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SWBAT demonstrate the depth and breadth of their fractional knowledge and skills using models, pictures, or symbols.

Big Idea

Students have fun with fractions as they connect with prior knowledge of equivalent / simplify / estimation of solutions.

What Do You Know?

5 minutes

I open today by giving students a blank sheet of paper and an open ended direction.  "Use words, pictures, or both to show me everything you know about fractions."

I choose this open ended assignment because the students have been taking a benchmark assessment for two days.  I opted not to give a formal pretest at this point.  I will use this informal assessment to gauge student's prior knowledge and misconceptions and potentially adjust student's color groups.  (Color groups are periodically reassigned, students are homogeneously grouped by ability in these groups.)

Following this activity, it is important that you take time to explain to the students why it is important to pre-assess their understanding and develop a common foundation for the students to build on together.  By this grade, students have worked with fractions with many other teachers and adults before.  It is important to establish some common ground and experiences to help students collectively move forward.  


Introduction to Fractions

5 minutes

We are moving into the next big topic for 5th grade.  When you are all grown up and graduating from high school, it is my hope that when you are remembering 5th grade, you say "Boy, I learned A LOT about fractions that year".  

I want you to say this, because fractions are a major part of the fifth grade math curriculum.  You started this work in first grade, did a little more in second and so on to build a basic understanding of fractions.  All of that work has been to get you ready for math in fifth grade, middle school, and the rest of your life.  Fractions are so important, because as you work with math problems in your real life, it is very rare that everything is whole numbers.  

I connect fractions to decimals by reminding students that prior topics (decimal number sense, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) have also prepared them for working fractions because both fractions and decimals represent part of a whole. Then I remind them that decimals and fractions are both numbers that represent more than zero, less than one.  This year, just like you've done with decimals, you will add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions. We wil be working on these concepts together, learning many new things and reviewing what you've learned in the past. 

Vocabulary List

10 minutes

Throughout this topic, students create a vocabulary list.  To introduce this, I ask my students to take a minute to reflect on the name.  On their own, for 5 quiet minutes, students create a list of great math words they associate with fractions.  

The students then share their lists within their group.  I think it is important to provide structure to the share, it focuses students' talk and increases the rigor because they have to dig into their thinking to complete the sentence frame. One student at a time shares "I wrote the word ______ because ______." Then, students may respond before the next student shares a word.  

Post words from students' vocabulary list in the front of the room.  This list will be used as a visual anchor to for students to use these words in their math conversations and writing.  This list will be expanded, as needed throughout the topic. I use the student generated list to build more ownership from the students.  

For the discussion, ask students to share a word that they didn't have on their list, but came up in conversation.  This helps students connect with more vocabulary because they are interacting with additional words.   

I explain to the students that as a group, we will add more words as the come up in the topic.  We will define the words as we work with fractions.

Fun with Fractions Game

40 minutes

I derived this activity from a Massachusetts model curriculum unit, "Adding and Subtracting Fractions". I also created a prezi with the game questions, that you can access.

Teacher Talk: Today we are going to learn about fractions. We will be playing The “Fraction” of Time Response Game! Listen carefully to how the game is played.

Set up of game:

  • Divide class into two teams: team A and team B. 
  • Team A and team B each pick a leader. 
  • Leader A and leader B sit by each other next to a buzzer (hand signals or call outs may be used instead of buzzer).
  • Set timer. I used an online stopwatch set to 15 seconds. 
  • Present a fraction problem on the screen. 

(I suggest that you use sample problems I've provided or select some from the pre-assessment - depending on assessment outcomes. Make sure the problems selected work to bring student discussions / think alouds  to focus on the significance of the “whole”.)

  • When the problem is presented, leader A and leader B get a “Fraction of Time” e (up to 15 seconds) to either accept (solve the problem) or not accept (pass the problem) for his/her team by hitting the buzzer (or raising hand or calling out).  If neither leader responds, teacher makes the decision.
  • The team that selects the problem, say team A in this example, gets another “Fraction of Time”  (three minutes) to think aloud, discuss and agree upon the solution. The conversations have to be public and loud for the teacher and opposing team B to listen in. Team B members cannot talk amongst themselves but can take notes during this time. 
  • At the end of the three minutes, the timer signals time’s up and the solution has to be presented by leader A. The team has to arrive at the solution by consensus. 
  • If the solution is correct, teacher presents a second problem and the process is repeated. 
  • If the solution is incorrect the opposing team (B) gets a “Fraction of Time” (up to two minutes since they have the advantage of listening in the first time) to discuss aloud and agree upon the correct solution. The now opposing team A listens in/takes notes but no talk is allowed. 
  • At the end of the time leader B has to present the agreed upon solution. The winning team scores points. 

Turn and Talk – (depends on time remaining) Teacher:  Now that you have played the game I want you to reflect on what you know about factions and think  about how you use them everyday life. Turn and talk to your partner /group. Teacher listens while circulating.