Fractions - tricky bits and misunderstandings

Fractions - tricky bits and misunderstandings

Here are some common difficulties children have with fractions:

1) The language of fractions trips them up:

Fraction word
Order / Numbering Word
a whole
first
half
second
third
third
quarter
fourth
fifth
fifth
sixth
sixth
seventh
seventh

See how the same word is used with two different meanings: sixth, seventh, eighth, tenth . . . . this can cause a lot of confusion early on.

2)  Dividing into three parts doesn't always make a third.

Take this "cake" - whoever got the first slice would be very happy!

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The parts must be equal to be thirds!

3) Thinking that fractions always have the same shape:

Learners are used to seeing fractions like this: 

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But they sometimes don't realise this could also be a quarter:

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4)  Getting mixed up between a "fraction" and a "fraction of a number"

Young learners can get their head around the idea that a half is bigger than a quarter.

However tell them that one quarter of 200 is bigger than one half of 50 and you may see the confusion in their faces. Again this is a language issue because learners don't pick up on the big difference between "one quarter" and "one quarter of..."

How can parents help?

1) Never miss a chance to get your child using fractions at the dinner table or when baking in the kitchen.

2) Listen and talk to your child about fractions. For ages 4 to 6 this will be about the common fractions - halves, quarters, thirds.

3) As children get older they'll start simplifying and adding fractions - to keep up with this, sign up to our blog to stay up to date with how to support your child as they learn. 

Check out our guide for parents explaining how children learn fractions at school.


I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11-year-olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free.


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