Fractions are a significant source of trouble for students of all ages. The concepts involved seem foreign, and consequently, are never solidified in youngsters minds. This is why it’s important to get children to understand fractions at an early age.
To an adult, we can see a fraction as a numerator and adenominator. Or, we can see them as a yet unreduced division expression. While we are correct, children will see these fractions as two numbers they recognize, arranged in a way they are unfamiliar with. The first step for them, is to explain the bottom number, the denominator.
Think of the denominator as a bag full of equal pieces. Each piece or combination of pieces would be considered a fraction of the whole bag. Every single piece would constitute the entire bag, or 1 bag. Another commonly used visual, one which is better for simpler fractions, is to use a pizza. If the denominator is 8, then the pizza is cut into 8 slices. If thedominatoris 4, then the pizza is cut into quarters.
The numerator is the top number. Kids have an easier time grasping this concept as it merely represents how many pieces they have. In the example of the 8 cut pizza, 2/8 would mean that they have two slices of pizza.
If you are fraction savvy, you will notice that 2/8 is a reducible fraction. This idea is very difficult, even for older students and some adults. Images help this process along, however, as 2 shaded pieces of an 8 slice pie is visually representative of 1/4. For beginners, this might be the best way they will be able to understand reduction of fractions. Students capable of division should consider finding numbers that evenly divide into the numerator and denominator, then dividing both by that found number.
Addition and subtraction of fractions is simple when dealing with common denominators. All kids need to be taught is, add the tops, leave the bottoms alone. Once you start dealing with different denominators, you are past the stage of beginners. Even multiplying fractions is easier than adding fractions with different denominators.
Aside from the mathematics of it all, one of the hardest things to deal with when teaching fractions to beginners, is the frustration factor. Students CAN understand, but need to be persistent. To make this easier for them, try making games out of them. The more practice they get, the better off they will be. This goes for any age.