I introduced one of my favorite math topics, fractions, to my third graders last week. To do so, I drew on the experience of an assistant principal and our math coach. The pivotal point is that students understand that fractions are equal parts of one whole, so I really tried to stress that during the lesson. Maybe you’ll try these with your own class!
Pizza Pie Fractions
Using magnetic fraction circles, I told my class a story about dinner last week when I was so hungry that I decided to order a whole pizza for myself. When my sister arrived to bring me something, she saw the pizza, and being hungry herself, asked to have some. I gave her one slice, but she said, “That’s not fair! I want the same amount that you’re eating!” So we decided to split the pizza in half and we both got two equal pieces. Right as we were about to take the first bite, her husband called her, saying he was starving. She told him we were having pizza and he should come join us. I tried to give him one slice, too, but he also complained that everyone should get the same amount, so we cut the pie into three equal pieces.
You get the picture? This continued to fourths, fifths, sixths, and tenths. I made it funny by saying things like, “Just as I was pouring the garlic on my pizza, the bell rang again!” as well as, “At this point, I was wondering if I should just order another pizza,” and “I only had six seats at my table!” They loved the story and the visuals helped support their understanding that a fraction is an equal part of a whole.
Homemade Fraction Bars
The next part of the lesson involved students creating their own fraction bars. Each student received eight strips of brightly colored paper and followed my directions on how to create fraction bars.
The folds for thirds, fifths, sixths, and tenths were extremely difficult for the students, so I would advise having extra paper on hand!
At any rate, each time they opened their freshly folded paper, students were able to count the number of sections and therefore easily identify the fraction they created. These strips will be invaluable when we begin to study equivalent fractions!
On a side note, during the lesson, in order to help students realize that fractions didn’t just come in circles or rectangles, I encouraged students to discuss other things that were or could be made into fractions. One girl noticed her glasses could be divided into thirds (the lenses being one-third, and each arm being a third.) One student bent his arm to indicate a half (roughly). And one student mentioned that an orange could be divided into fractions. Conveniently enough, I had one in my bag, so we fractionalized and everyone enjoyed one-sixteenth.