Teaching Equivalent Fractions to Special Education Students

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

Are you looking for fun and engaging ways to help students with special needs recognize and create equivalent fractions? This lesson will provide you with strategies for doing just that!

Understanding Equivalent Fractions

When teaching equivalent fractions to special education students, begin by defining the terms: equivalent fractions, numerator, and denominator. For example, you can explain that equivalent fractions are fractions that do not look alike, but that have the same value.

For instance, all of the following fractions equal to 1/2, but they have different numerators and/or denominators:

  • 2/4
  • 3/6
  • 4/8

Why are these fractions the same? They are the same because when you multiply or divide both the numerator (top) and the denominator (bottom) by the same number, the fraction keeps its value:

  • 2/4 ÷ 2/2 = 1/2
  • 3/6 ÷ 3/3 = 1/2
  • 4/8 ÷ 4/4 = 1/2

Using Visuals to Aid Recognition

Recognizing equivalent fractions is simply being able to identify when two or more fractions look different but have the same value. When teaching students how to write equal values in different ways, use pictures that are relatable. Food items are always a good idea, such as pizza, cookies, and cake. If possible use the actual items to make the activity more engaging.

Relating Lessons to Life Skills

You can work recognizing equivalent fractions into life skills to make learning them more fun! For example, you could teach students how to bake a pie. When measuring ingredients, show them how many different fractions equal a 1/2 cup of milk.

Let students fill up cups with milk and then write their fractional amounts as 1/2, 4/8, etc. This shows them how different fractions are still equal. When the pie is finished, you can use the cut pieces to also demonstrate how a 1/4 piece of pie is the same as a 2/8 piece of pie.

You can use almost any item to teach the concept of equivalent fractions. Think Legos, bowling pins, or any other subject matter or item that interests students. Manipulatives are way more fun than worksheets! However, if you do use worksheets, make sure they have shapes that are divided equally, and let students fill in the equivalent fractions by shading them with different colors.

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