Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fly on the Wall Fractions Blog Hop

I am blog hopping with a group to help squash some misconceptions about fractions. 

For me personally as an elementary teacher, when I taught fractions, I tended to say, "You can not have an improper fraction" "You ALWAYS have to simplify it". That just isn't true. I just wanted them to simplify. What I didn't realize I was doing was teaching them  to think improper fractions are "bad". 

Well, now that I am teaching upper grades, I have realized that is just wrong to teach, and I wasn't the only one because my sixth graders would come to me and when we used improper fractions they would say, "Improper fractions are bad, you can't have that, you have to change it." 

Well, not exactly! Improper fractions are actually helpful for mathematics purposes. 

Students should know how to change improper fractions to mixed numbers and mixed numbers to improper fractions. 
This is how we teach that: 

When is it helpful to use improper fractions? 
For my students adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions!!! They are given a mixed number and they change it to an improper fraction to complete the equation! 

In real life though, I don't say, I ate 9/4 of a pizza. I would say, "I ate 2 1/4 pieces of pizza." In that scenario a mixed number would make sense. 

I think my lesson learned here was to NOT teach students that improper fractions are "bad". They are NOT, they are useful actually. 

Next stop:  love2learn2day 


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  1. In the new edition of Van de Walle's book Teaching Student Centered Mathematics, one change I noticed was an emphasis on not using the term 'improper fraction' anymore and instead calling them a 'fraction greater than 1.' Just like you said, the phrase improper fraction makes kids think there is something wrong with them. Now that I've started talking about fractions like 5/3 as a fraction greater than 1, it has made a world of difference.


    1. Love the idea of calling them a fraction greater than one! I have to read that book!

      The Math Maniac

  2. I absolutely think that is what we should be doing! Thank you for sharing that!!!

    I need to get the new edition of that book. I love it.