Easy ways to help learners understand and record fractions
The symbolic notation of fractions can create problems for learners. And often, as teachers, we introduce it too early, which unintentionally creates further confusion. So how do we help children develop an understanding that the denominator and the numerator are different?
Here are some easy ways to teach fractions and give your learners a deep understanding of how they work.
1. Use concrete resources
Concrete resources are critical for giving learners a conceptual understanding of fractions. Using resources to support teaching the concept of adding fractions is an easy way to record fractions and help children see that only the numerator is cardinal and represents a quantity.
2. Don’t introduce the concept of fractions with the symbolic notation
Fractions follow the language convention of ‘number plus noun’, like place value. For example, 3/4 follows the same language convention as ‘3 tens.’ Both mean ‘we have 3 of that thing.’
When we introduce fractions to younger learners, explicitly following this convention will develop their understanding of the numerator and denominator. Rather than recording fractions with the symbolic notation, record the numerator with the numerical symbol and the denominator as a written word.
For example: 3/4 can be recorded as ‘3 quarters’.
Recording fractions initially as ‘the number plus the noun’ will help learners develop an understanding that the numerator is cardinal and the denominator is nominal.
3. Use pictorial and visual representations to support abstract maths.
Similar to using concrete resources, it’s important to support abstract maths with visual representations. Drawing diagrams to represent 3/4 added together with 2/4 will help learners develop an understanding that only the numerator represents a quantity.
Visually representing the abstract concept of fractions is important for developing your learners’ conceptual understanding of fractions throughout their primary school learning. Visual representations will help learners understand conceptually what the abstract notations and procedures mean.