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How to Model Fraction Operations with Fraction Strips

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  • 0:00 Fraction Operations
  • 1:04 Using Fraction Strips
  • 1:53 Same Denominators
  • 2:46 Different Denominators
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Many people struggle with how to mentally manipulate fractions. In this lesson, we'll go over a hands-on technique to start your students on the best way to learn how to fully understand fractions - fraction strips.

Fraction Operations

Chances are you've already had instances where otherwise bright students have struggled with fractions. After all, for many students it is a relatively difficult concept to wrap their heads around. How can a larger number for the denominator mean that a value of 1 as the numerator gets smaller as the denominator gets bigger? Isn't 3 bigger than 2, so why isn't 1/3 bigger than 1/2? Granted, those are simplifications, but chances are that you've encountered students with questions that are only slightly more difficult. In fact, many adults have simply had to take a brute force approach with fractions, learning the concepts through rote memorization rather than any true understanding of the subject matter. However, in this lesson, we're going to attempt to change all of that. Through the use of fraction strips, small strips of paper that represent various fractions of a defined whole, we are going to provide the tools to help your students not only learn fractional operations but really internalize them as well.

Using Fraction Strips

First things first: let's make the fraction strips. You could purchase them from a variety of retailers, but you may find that having students make them on their own could result in another layer of potential understanding. Measure foot-long strips of paper. You may need to provide legal-sized paper and have them cut the extra two inches or so away and discard. Have students mat these strips on construction paper for added strength. Then, cut the strips to pieces according to fractions. One strip could be cut into two to represent halves, another into three for thirds, and so on, until you have sets of halves, thirds, quarters, sixths, and twelfths. You may find it beneficial to have another set for fifths and tenths, but certainly have the first five sets as described.

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