I love math (evidence of this love has appeared here on PBS Parents Adventures in Learning on more than one occasion) and so naturally, I try to instill the same passion in my two daughters. But fractions prove tricky for them and for me. Recently, my sixth grader needed help with her math homework and I was quick to say “bring that on over here, darling” with a measure of assured confidence before meekly pivoting to “um, you’re going to have to wait for mommy to come home from work, sweetie, sorry.” The problem were the problems: dividing fractions.
Frankly, I don’t ever remember learning how to divide a fraction (or having needed to call on that particular mathematical skill during my 39 years). Still, fractions CAN and should be fun, after all, fractions are everywhere! Here’s how to make fractions come to life in and around your home. Your kids will soon see fractions and enjoy fractions — with no division required!
What You’ll Need
- measuring cups and spoons
- time to look around your home
- pizza (if you’re hungry!)
- construction paper
How to Start Seeing Fractions Everywhere
Discovering a world of fractions is easy, because fractions are everywhere! Fractions are in halftime of the soccer match (1/2), the end of the third quarter of your favorite college football team’s game (3/4 — Go Green!), and a hockey game is divided into thirds so during the first intermission the game sits at 1/3 completed and during the second break it is 2/3 finished. But fractions are not the exclusive domain of sports! Take a look at your windows and see how they are divided up into 4 or 6 panels and ask your kiddo how many of their drawers, in fractions, hold their pajamas. In my girls’ rooms that answer is 1/7 for my youngest and 1/6 for my oldest. Now ask them how many drawers they left open in their rush to catch the school bus this morning!
2/7 and 3/6 (which reduces to 1/2) here, frustratingly.
And who can forget the tastiest fractions of all: pizza! Cut in its traditional eight slices, every piece is a 1/8 fraction waiting to be devoured. So your hungry son didn’t just eat a trio of slices, he consumed 3/8 of the entire pie. Also, pie! Use the pumpkin pies you’ll soon be pulling from the oven to make fractions visible to your little learners. My girls each went to school today with fractions in their lunchbox because I cut their PB&J sandwiches into fourths. See, fractions are everywhere!
If you spend their early childhood encouraging your kids to see the fractions all around them, fractions will be commonplace and far less frightening a math concept by the time they hit third and fourth grade. But you, like me, may still need help with the division come the sixth grade!
In lieu of a frozen pizza, measuring cups, or asking your daughter to calculate the fraction representing how many light bulbs I still need to replace in her ceiling fan, cut pieces of colorful construction paper into strips, circles and triangles to take this fractional activity on the road or out to dinner. Write 1/3, 1/4, 1/2 and so on, on the pieces and have your child put them together to make a whole number.
Another fun way to make fractions a part of your child’s life is to calculate their age down to the 12th, for example: My oldest was born on March 2, 2004 making her 11 and 7/12 on October 2nd. My youngest just turned 8 and 4/12 (which reduces to 1/3) on September 28th. This certainly adds some spice to their age and is guaranteed to get funny looks from anyone who happens to ask your children how old there are!