Teaching Fractions Homeschool Curriculum

Using chips and skittles to teach fractions.

Showing 2/8 red chips.
Showing 2/8 red chips. | Source
Showing 1/4 red chips.
Showing 1/4 red chips. | Source

Conceptual Understanding of Math Concepts

The most important thing to remember when teaching fractions, is that children need to have a well-developed conceptual understanding of what they are and how they function. Conceptual understanding is an integrated and functional grasp of mathematical concepts. This base knowledge is essential in developing skills to solve more complex problems involving fractions in the future. In order to develop conceptual understanding of fractions, children need to be provided with several hands-on fraction experiences, where they can make discoveries and connections with guidance. Afterwards, children need to practice what they have learned and apply it.

Teaching parts of a whole with skittles.
Teaching parts of a whole with skittles. | Source

Introducing Fractions

Begin with the concept of one whole. What does one whole mean? Make a list of things that we think of when using the term whole. Some examples would be pizza, cake, tray of brownies, a puzzle, and the list can go on. A whole is composed of pieces that make up the whole.

Next, have a discussion about one-half. Write it in fraction form and in word form. Name halves of things. How many pieces are in one-half? Write fractions showing one-half. For example, one-half of a pizza with 8 pieces is 4/8. Have your child draw pictures of other examples of one-half. Ask your child how halves are similar. (The top number is always half of the bottom number in a fraction).

Introduce the terms numerator and denominator. Explain that the numerator is the top number of a fraction, and the denominator is the bottom number of a fraction. Use these terms when teaching and encourage your child to use them as well.

Discovery Learning

Now for the fun part of learning about fractions. In the following activities, children will use objects to make discoveries that will help them to solve written problems on paper later.

Paper folding: Show your child a whole piece of paper. Tell your child that the paper represents one whole. Fold a piece of paper in half. Color one side. How much is colored? 1/2. Fold the same piece of paper in half again. How much is colored? 1/2 still, or 2/4s. Fold the paper in half again. How much is colored? 4/8s, or 1/2, or 2/4s. These are called equivalent fractions, because they have the same value.

Using red/yellow chips: Get 8 chips. Turn them all on the red sides. Explain that these 8 chips represent one whole group of red chips, 8/8 chips are red. Show 1/2 of them red (the other half will be yellow). How many are red? 4. What fraction of the chips are red? 4/8s or 1/2. Show 1/8 of them red. Show 2/8 of them red. Show 1/4 of them red. (This is where your child will hesitate and may make the connection - let him). If your child puts the 8 chips into groups of 4, with one group being red, he has made the desired connection. If he doesn't, then ask him to try making groups. Write the fractions 2/8 and 1/4. Talk about the numerator and the denominator. What do they mean?

Ask your child to show 6/8 red, then 3/4s red. Have the same discussion as you did before.

Now use 6 chips. Have your child show 6 red chips. Repeat that this is one whole group of 6 chips, or 6/6. Go through the same process, beginning with 1/2, then 3/6s. Now have your child show 2/6s, then 1/3. This activity can be done over and over again with different fractions to show equivalency.

Skittles and Fractions: Give your child a fun-size bag of skittles. Tell her that she has one whole bag of skittles. Have her count the number of skittles. 17/17 skittles = 1 whole bag. Create a table and record the number of each color of skittles and the fraction each color represents. Add all of the fractions together to get 17/17 or one whole.

  • Cool Math 4 Kids Cool math offers fraction lessons and games that begin with basic concepts, then progress to harder concepts. It is very colorful, with eye-appealing graphics, and very kid-friendly.
  • Super Teacher If you are looking for some worksheets that go along with the fraction concepts being taught, one of my favorite resources is Super Teacher. They offer a few free printables per concept, and then membership is required (at a minimal cost), for access to all of their printables.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You could print out worksheets to practice concepts as they are learned, or you could have your child practice on one of the many great free online websites. Below is a list of websites that I have found to be very effective in providing practice with fraction concepts.

  • IXLmath IXL provides a wealth of practice problems for Pre-K through 8th grades, including algebra and geometry. It also has a page that will allow you to access educational standards for the state in which you live. You will find fraction practice for grades one and up.
  • NLVM This is a fantastic site offering online manipulatives such as fraction bars and pieces, to teach parts of a whole, adding, comparing, equivalency, and more. Children love it.

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Comments 4 comments

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

That's really interesting. I hated fractions, but use them everyday and especially when I quilt. Guess I learned them after all. My daughter is starting fractions...I might have to whip out the skittles (or m & m's). Interesting and useful hub!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Hey! Love this! When I was a teacher, fractions was one of my favorite skills to teach. I began teaching younger kids and then moved on to teach middle and high school. I found out the importance of kids understanding fractions as I moved on to high school algebra. Great job!


Rosie writes profile image

Rosie writes 3 years ago from Virginia Author

Thanks rebeccamealey. I've only taught fractions to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I agree that it is important for them get a good understanding of fractions, especially in the lower grades.


happy wheels 15 months ago

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