Teaching fractions can be the bane of any teacher, let alone the homeschooling parent! Most children just don’t want to think in partial numbers- most parents don’t either for that matter. That’s nothing new… the Romans and the Greeks didn’t want to either. History tells us that their numbering systems did not include fractions… they represented fraction parts as ratios. 2/3 would have been represented as 2 to 3. The Hindus and the Arabians were the first to begin using fractions and actually wrote them similarly to how we write our fractions today… I know… you are saying…”Hmmm, that’s all interesting but how is that going to help me teach my child about fractions?” Don’t worry here we go…

The easiest way that I have found to introduce the part/whole relationship is through concrete examples. If you are homeschooling, and plan to teach on fractions… go ahead and plan on having pizza for lunch. You can cut the pizza while the children watch – into halves, then fourths, and then eighths. As you give out the portions ask them what fraction of the pizza they have. Then they can eat the lesson…

A great follow up is to have rectangular pieces of paper for each of your children, together fold the paper in half and then fourths… unfold and let each child look at the paper. You can even have them color parts of it to represent 3/4, 1/2 or 1/4. For the odd numbers, it may be advisable to go ahead and fold them ahead of time and then let the children color the parts. The odd number fractions are a little more difficult to paper fold.

I have also found that unifix cubes and even magnetic fraction circles are a great way to allow the children to manipulate the concept of fractions while using a concrete example.

Before taking the children further into operations involving fractions, it’s wise to make sure that they have developed fraction sense and can intuitively tell at a glance which are larger/smaller. Using the paper folding method is great to compare the sizes of 1/3 and 1/4 etc., and to help build solid fractional awareness.

Introducing discreet models into this fractional thinking is a good way to connect real life situations to fractional representations. We can solve a life problem with the paper folding concept. “Chloe finds a bag of balloons containing red and blue balloons. She found that 1/6 of them were blue. She also realize that there were 100 red balloons. How many blue balloons were there?” You can use the paper folding representation of sixths. The child can look at the boxes and see that there were 5 boxes representing red and since there were 100 red balloons, each box must equal 20 red balloons. If that is the case then there must be 20 blue balloons.

Whichever method you choose to introduce fractions… just remember the more concrete and exciting the example… the more fun they will have learning the concept!!