An introduction to fractions

Fractions are the first tricky concept learners come across in maths. Fortunately for maths teachers, most learners are familiar with fractions before they're taught in the classroom and this familiarity comes from family conversations like this:

"Mum, can I have the last chocolate bar?"
"No, share it with your sister."
"Okay."

Two minutes later...

"Mum, my half of chocolate isn't as big as hers!"

Even at a very young age children have an idea of how old they are in terms of whole years and fractions: 

"How old are you?"
"Three and a half."

Here are some common difficulties children have with fractions:

1) The language of fractions trips them up:

Fraction word

Order / Numbering Word

a whole

one

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 something into three parts doesn't mean you have thirds.

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 it 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 for our blog.

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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