Teaching equivalent fractions is no easy feat, and when you throw in the thought of having to teach it online remotely, one’s brain begins to spin. How can we teach an important, yet hard, skill virtually while still keeping it engaging? Even more so, how can we make it hands-on when students aren’t in front of us face-to-face?
The pandemic that has changed teaching recently has made things challenging. As teachers, we must forge ahead, being flexible and adapting, continuing to help our students grow in our new environments. These ideas below are a starting point to help you teach equivalent fractions virtually to your students to help them be successful and engaged.
Tips for Teaching Equivalent Fractions
Often teachers believe that fractions are first taught in third grade, but that’s actually not true. It starts in kindergarten under the geometry domain and progresses each year. Two Boys and a Dad explains it well in his blog post How I Taught Equivalent Fractions. You can also see the progression in his image below.
Since students have seen fractions prior, this should ease your mind a little, knowing that this isn’t their first look at it as you are facing them across the screen.
Next, as we are looking at them virtually, keep in mind the SAMR Model. This is the framework used to classify the integration of technology in instruction. Depending on which level you are using in your instruction, you can either enhance the lesson or transform it. You can read more about the SAMR Model in my post Teaching Digitally: All About the SAMR Model.
Ideas for Teaching Equivalent Fractions
#1 – Use the Kitchen.
Yes, I started with food. I feel it’s tradition to mention food every. single. time. you are teaching anything fraction related. The best part is, students are at home, and they are near their kitchen. I get that not every child will be able to go right into their fridge or pantry and grab something, but some will. (For those that can’t provide a printable version such as this freebie partway down the page from The Applicious Teacher.)
You can have students use egg cartons (with or without eggs) in the kitchen, measuring cups and spoons, pancakes, cookies, and/or recipes. These can easily be used to demonstrate equivalent fractions, manipulate, and/or for practice.
#2 – Teacher and Student Use of Video.
There are lots of options online that can help teach equivalent fractions to your students. For instance, there are great videos on the Khan Academy, Class Playground, and Brainpop. You could even create a video yourself and have your students watch it.
Another use of video could be having students create a model of an equivalent fraction and creating a video explaining and justifying it. Then this could be shared in a commonplace like padlet.
#3 – Create a Virtual Storybook.
One of my favorite things to include in math is literacy. There is no shortage of great math picture books, especially with fractions. After choosing to read a fraction picture book, why not have students together create their own?
Assign each student a fraction and give them a theme. For instance, if your entire book is around a zoo theme, each student must make their slide about an animal and equivalent fractions. For instance, the male lion ate 4/5 of the fish in the bucket, and the female lion ate 8/10 of the fish. They both ate the same amount. Then the image will show that. The students can draw this on a piece of paper and take a picture to upload. Then place each picture on a Google Slide to create a virtual storybook. Alternatively, you could provide students with several fractions, and they each create their own picture book.
#4 – Use a Digital Whiteboard Together.
The Math Learning Center has an app that allows sharing. This means that your students can use this app to follow along with you, participate on a whiteboard, and show you their screen – just like in the classroom. You can find more information about the digital whiteboard by clicking here.
#5 – Use Virtual Manipulatives.
There are a lot of great websites out there that offer virtual manipulatives. Students really need to see equivalent fractions in many forms. My two recommended sites are The Math Learning Center and Toy Theater. After students have used these sites, remind them to take screenshots and then share what they notice and wonder.
#6 – Use Home Materials.
Like number one above, I understand that some children may not have all these items lying around, so it may not be possible. Consider having children use Play-Doh to make a square, rectangle, and circle fractions that can then be transformed into equivalent fractions. Have students use string or pipe cleaners to make number line fractions, and even Legos can be used. Using these items that are lying around is definitely going to engage your kiddos.
#7 – Provide Online Practice Games.
There are a lot of games online that are engaging and still educational. Students need to practice identifying equivalent fractions. When they are in the classroom, they typically get that practice through centers or worksheets. While we don’t want to overdo worksheets even in a virtual setting, we can provide them with the practice in a different format. There are many free games online, such as this collection from Mr. Nussbaum, Fraction Mash, the Math Coach’s Corner’s Capture 4, or Jennifer Findley’s Sweetheart Equivalent Fractions. If you’re willing to pay, you’ll also find some inexpensive but highly engaging games like these Find the Fraction Boom Cards from Stress-Free Teaching, Donut Fractions from Sweet Integrations, and Teaching in the Fast Lane’s Stinky Feet Game.
Whatever you choose to do when teaching your students’ equivalent fractions, remember that relating it to their lives is one of the best ways to help them understand it. While it is harder teaching it virtually, it’s not impossible. With these ideas, it (hopefully) will make it a little easier.