Teaching the Tough Bits – Dividing Fractions
Plenty of people and books teach the ‘how to do it’ part of math. But I had such a hard time finding books that could help with the ‘why the heck am I doing this?’ part of math, like dividing fractions. And so I plowed through and developed a few strategies and ideas to help my kids that I want to share with you.
Dividing Fractions. . . this is one of the toughest concepts I faced when teaching math to my children but mostly ’cause I was focused on the how and not the why.
So let’s jump right in, but I am assuming that at this point your child already understands fractions more or less and you are trying to explain the concept of dividing them.
When I first taught my kids about dividing fractions, we sat at the kitchen table with a cake (they like cake a lot more than pie).
I cut it in half and asked them how much of the cake they would get if I gave them the pieces I had just cut. The resounding answer was, “Half – yes please!” Then I cut again making fourths and again to make eight pieces and asked the same question.
Now, I asked them what I had been doing when I made each cut.
After getting lots of different answers, I agreed with all the ideas (at least the reasonable ones) and then asked my kids to think about that first cut I made. One of them said, “you divided it in half.”
“Yes!!! Very good! So I started with a whole cake and divided it into two halves,” I responded.
Then I asked them about the next cut.
I explained that just like the first cut, I took a part of the cake (this time a half) and divided it into two equal parts and I got two quarters. (this works a lot better if you can get your kids to jump in and explain it to you.
Kids innately know this stuff, they are just intimidated by the language or vocabulary and the fact that you call it math.
If you just call it dividing up a cake so everyone gets an equal piece,” every kid out there will understand and be able to do it.
Now all you have to do is circle around to the math vocabulary (preferably while they are eating their cake since eating and cementing knowledge in your brain go hand-in-hand).
Explain that together you divided that half of a cake into two equal parts which ended up being two quarters of the whole thing. Then you divided the quarter of the cake into two equal parts and got two eighths of the whole cake (since once you cut it all up there were eight pieces). So dividing one (cake) by two (equal parts) equals one half. And dividing that one half (cake) by two (equal parts) equals one quarter. And dividing that one quarter (cake) by two (equal parts) equals one eighth of a piece of cake – that is the part your child is eating right now.
It is such a simple concept to understand that I was ashamed at how long it took me to figure out how to explain it!
When you get bogged down in all the math and forget that math is really supposed to help you describe and relate to the real world, it can be hard to explain.
But really math is not complicated. It is easy to explain to your kids. I can help you.
That is what I will try to help you with each week. So if you have a topic or a bit of math that your child really doesn’t get and you want a different perspective, just tell me in the comments below and I will write you an answer in next week’s post!
(I shared this post in the Friday Funnies, Flops, and Fails Blog Hop. )