I’ve introduced and worked on fractions using a variety of tools and resources over the years. In 1st grade, we explore fractions as part of our Halfway Day celebration on day 90- halfway through the school year. In third grade, I expect my students to have some understanding of fractions from their work in previous years, but, they always seem to need me to start with the basics. Over the years, I’ve found that what I do in my introduction lays the foundation for a successful unit. Here’s a look at my tried and true strategies and resources for my 3rd grade fractions unit.
Introduction to Fractions
The most effective method of introducing fractions is by creating fraction strips reference posters we use throughout our unit. With one day’s lesson, we introduce and explore the concepts of unit fractions, fractions of a whole, fractions on a number line, same size wholes, comparing fractions and equivalent fractions. Students create their own fractions strips through this hands-on exploration lesson. Rather than rely on commercially purchased fractions strips, this lesson helps build a concrete fractional understanding with students.
To begin, I cut many same size strips of construction paper and then have larger sized paper available as the base. Each student uses a glue stick and a Sharpie for our lesson. Students divide the first strip in half and show the partition and label the unit fractions. We then label the strip as if it was a number line.
We then continue using the strips of paper to build additional fractions. By lining up the edges of the strips and the half point, it’s easy to explore the concepts of equivalence and same size wholes. Creating the fraction strips ourselves helps students truly understand.
After dividing strips into fourths, the next strip is divided into eighths. By keeping the first strips as multiples of each other, it’s easier to explore and discuss equivalence. Here, students can easily see that 4/8 is equivalent to 1/2.
You can read each of the steps in my fractions introduction lesson, along with watching a video tutorial walking through the steps in my Hands-On Fractions Introduction post.
Fractions Greater than 1
Fractions greater than one, or improper fractions, are a critical part of the 3rd grade unit. The kids always seem to have such a difficult time moving beyond one- especially with fractions on a number line. They need a lot of experience and exposure with fractions larger than 1 in order to truly build a deep understanding. This includes working with whole numbers as fractions.
I begin with another hands-on introductory lesson. This time, though, I rely on cookies! The cookies help engagement stay high and represent wholes in a way students can understand. This lesson lets me continue to reinforce concepts like numerators, denominators, equivalent fractions, and comparisons while I’m introducing fractions larger than 1.
Click through to read more on how I give my students explicit instruction with fractions larger than 1 in this hands-on lesson and watch the video tutorial.
Fractions Model Task Cards
I love using these model task cards throughout my 3rd grade fractions unit! I’ve been able to use them in so many of my lessons- both whole group and within my small groups and reteaching groups. We’ve used them to match the fraction to the model, first. The task cards have been great to use as “around the room” activities! I just posted the task cards on the wall and other surfaces and then distribute the cards. Students are out of their seats and moving as they work to complete whatever I’m directing. The task cards include the most common fractions representations in 3rd grade with denominators of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. They also include many representations of fractions larger than one.
This MASSIVE freebie has 104 pages! With 392 task cards, you can use these throughout your unit! Task cards are included for fractions less than 1, equal to 1, greater than 1, and whole numbers as fractions. You can use them to sort and match visual shape models or number line models. You can use them to help students practice equivalent fractions or comparisons. Because they’re task cards, there are so many engaging ways you can use them in the classroom!
The task cards have been really great for reviewing everything we’ve learned and incorporate some higher order thinking. For example, each student in the small group received a model and students needed to put them in order from least to greatest. Because 3rd grade only compares with the same numerator or same denominator, I focused on models with one denominator, and those equivalent to 1 or another whole number. Despite my students doing well with comparisons, working with several at once was a real challenge for them. The conversation between them was great!
Sign up with the form below and this will be sent to your straight away- along with ideas for how to use them within your fractions unit. I compiled these task cards with 3rd grade students in mind, but they certainly could be used with other grade levels strategically.
Looking for other resources? Check out my Must Have 3rd Grade Fractions Activities post for more!
Fractions Anchor Charts
We also created anchor charts with our previous and new learning.
My anchor charts are always a bit sloppy. I create them with kids, so my handwriting is hurried, and I’m not the best artist in the first place. Just my disclaimer. 🙂
The next day, we created another anchor as we began to compar. We looked at our paper strips and used them to help us. Comparing fractions is difficult, and as much as I want the kids to understand how one fraction is bigger than another, we also need to talk about some generalizations and rules.
I love how you built the concept up and then when you did the highly motivating food part, you kept increasing the cooperation. My school doesn't allow any food to be used but I am downloading this and keeping it as either an example or a someday. Thanks so much!