Fractions

How many of you read that title and got shivers down your back?  The very word “fractions” can cause fear for many people.

However, fractions are not something that I want the children to fear.  So instead of diving right in and doing lessons about fractions and what they are and what they look like, I bring in why they are relevant.

On Tuesday, after defining fractions, I asked the children, “Where will we use fractions in everyday life?  Why are we learning about them?

At first, the children stared at me.  Then one or two tentative hands went up, “For school?”

Yes, yes absolutely we use them in school.  What else?  What about outside of school?

Finally, we started picking up speed as we came up with things like measurement, art, baking, cooking, shoe sizes, store sales etc.

Then I asked them if they knew that photography uses fractions.  The children shook their heads.

I then had the opportunity to share one of my hobbies with them.  We explored the shutter speed that is written as a fraction (the larger the denominator the faster the shutter speed) and the aperture (the size of hole allowing light in.  The larger the hole, the smaller the number just like fractions).  The children were amazed, and they enjoyed learning about something that I do outside of the classroom.

(side note:  for any teachers reading, in the book Teach like a Pirate, the author talks about finding ways to bring in your passions into the classroom.  What are you passionate about that can engage the children into a lesson?  It’s an excellent book!)

Then of course, what lesson would be complete without some practice?  I cautiously handed both of my cameras to my children to take pictures (after going over of course how to hold and pass off).  One camera was practicing the shutter speed, one the aperture.  They could take 2 pictures of the same thing on each camera–one on varying settings (example a slow and a fast shutter speed).

The children eagerly took the pictures.  All I could hear was talk about the fractions and how the bottom number was larger so it must be faster.  So yes, all the pictures for this week were taken by the children themselves.

Though this was just the introduction to fractions and I recognize that not everyone left the lesson understanding completely how fractions work, the children at least rid themselves of any fear they may have had about fractions.

In fact, several students at the end of the week told me, “Fractions are fun!”  And that is the path that we want to continue on.

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