How I Taught Equivalent Fractions

Two boys and a dad teacher


I previously blogged about how I taught my third graders to compare fractions using models, number lines and fractions strips.  But what about equivalent fractions?  I used the same models, number lines and fractions strips to teach equivalent fractions as hands-on concept building lessons...but then I added a new factor!  Google Slides!



Two boys and a dad teacher


Hands-on Time


I began by having the students use the fractions strips to find equivalent fractions. We began by discussing the meaning of "equivalent" and then I instructed the students to pick up the 1/2 piece and find the fraction that is the same size (occupies the same space).  We soon found all the equivalent fractions for 1/2 (2/4, 3/6/, 4/8, 5/10 and 6/12).  I asked them to notice anything about the numerators and denominators.  They could see that the denominator was double the numerator.  We had a discussion of why that is and came up with the idea that the numerator was HALF of the denominator.  BINGO!  That is why all these fractions are EQUIVALENT.   We continued to find equivalent fractions with other fractions like 1/3 and 2/3.  This hands-on building of conceptual understanding of equivalent fractions should never be skipped or substituted.  Children DO need to manipulate solid, real objects in their hands and make these discoveries on their own.


Two boys and a dad teacher

Here is a video of one of my students hunting down an equivalent fraction using fraction strips.


video

We spent an entire lesson just using these manipulatives until I knew for sure the students understood the concept of equivalent fractions.  The next day my lesson focused on transferring that concept to number lines.  I started by demonstrating on the white board how number lines could also be used to find equivalent fractions.  Then I had the students use their own white boards to draw same size number lines and label them with halves and fourths.  We practiced several times until I could see that the class understood how to find equivalent fractions on a number line.  Now comes the exciting part!

Online, Cloud Based Resource


Google Slides!  I have mentioned before how my district is now a 1:1 Chrome Book district in grades 3 - 5.  Each teacher has a cart with a Chrome Book for each student.  Many districts are opting for 1:1 to align instruction with the new online standardized tests known as SBAC and PARCC.  Having administered the SBAC last year, I can tell you that if your students are NOT used to using a mouse to manipulate objects on a screen, or type answers they will have a more difficult time on the test.  The technology component of these new standardized tests add another burden for students.  

Two boys and a dad teacher


With that in mind, I designed my practice for the students using Google Slides.  If your are not familiar with Google Slides, here is a link to get you started.  Essentially, Google Slides is an ONLINE, CLOUD based presentation tool much like PowerPoint.  If you're familiar with PowerPoint, then you will be very familiar with Google Slides.  The slides have a background the can NOT be edited or moved.  I only have to add the moving pieces that make the slides interactive for the students to practice the skill.    

After creating the practice in Google Slides, I assigned it to my students using Google Classroom.  Yes, your students will need a Google account to use anything Google.  I'm fortunate that my district has provided each student with an account user name and password.  All the student needs to do is log in on ANY device ANYWHERE (even at home) to complete the assignment.  Even as students are working on the assignment, the teacher can see their work LIVE on the teacher's computer and add comments and suggestions as the student is working.  This is an amazing tool because you can literally see how students are trying to solve math problems and you can scaffold your comments to fit the needs of the student! 

Two boys and a dad teacher


But wait there's more!  It's a total time saver for teachers.  Once you've created these online resources, you can use them again the following year, even if you have to modify them!  Students also "turn in" the assignment online so you can easily look over the slides and give them a grade or credit for their work. 

What's the Benefit Over Pencil and Paper?


Has any student or teacher every REALLY enjoyed or like working in a math book with publisher created (and overly difficult and poorly explained) problems?  Not that I've seen.  There is more motivation for students to work in a digital world (as long as they get some hands on practice to develop concepts first) than there is in picking up a pencil.  So one benefit is student motivation.  Another important benefit is preparing your students for 21st century learning and working.  The jobs these students will have when they grow up haven't been invented yet!  Everything though, is pointing to a convergence to learning and working with online, cloud based resources.

I will caution you that it does take some time to get the students accustomed to using the tools to drag the interactive pieces of the slide.  But with practice, they really get good at using the tools on Google Slides.  This is EXACTLY the kind of practice they will need to overcome that technology burden that the SBAC and PARCC have.  Here's an analogy:  you know how to drive, but do you know how to drive on the other side of the rode?  That's very tricky and can lead to you getting into accidents and driving very slowly until you are accustomed to it!  But what if you were able to practice that for a few weeks on a NON-high stakes track?  Eventually you'll become familiar with driving on the other side and it will be a non-factor when having to drive on real roads with traffic.  

Here's an example of an online, cloud based resource that I created for my students to find equivalent fractions using models. The students had to identify the 2 models that showed equivalent fractions, then drag them to the green box.  The next step was to grab the written fractions and drag them to the  equal sign to show symbolically how the fractions are equivalent  The final step was to explain how the models show that the fractions are equivalent.  The students do all this in Google Slides.  

Two boys and a dad teacher


That is why I am quickly developing and testing ONLINE, CLOUD-based resources with my students.  If we are supposed to be preparing them for the 21st century, then we should be using 21st tools!  

Coming Soon!


Here's an example of a resource that will soon be available in my store as a ONLINE, CLOUD-based resource.  I've already tested it with my third graders and have tweaked it and made it even better!  In this example, students use fraction strips to compare fractions with like denominators or like numerators.    I am currently testing out Cloud-Based Interactive Notebooks for both Social Studies and a book club (The Tale of Despereaux).  Check back regularly to see when these product become available in my store!

Two boys and a dad teacher


In the meantime, if you are curious as to how this digital revolution is going to affect teaching and student learning, check out Danielle Knight from studyallknight.com.  She has some great examples of how to use online resources.  Also check out her store for more examples.


UPDATE:  2/29/16

It's now available in my store!  Comparing and Ordering Fractions in the Cloud
Click HERE to see it!


Two Boys and a Dad Productions
Now AVAILABLE in my store on 2/2/9/16!



Also, if you are new to the Google world, consider following my Google in the Classroom Pinterest board.  It's full of ideas, tutorials, examples, tips, etc of how to use Google.  

Two boys and a dad teacher


Check my STORE soon for the new ONLINE, CLOUD based resources!





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