1. Group work on fractions

In this section you will introduce the concept of fractions. By trying tasks with groups of different sizes, you will be able to consider what is most suitable for your situation and for each practical task. For more information, see Key Resource: Using group work in your classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Case Study 1 and Activity 1 use simple resources – a fruit, paper and fraction strips – to help pupils understand the concept of fractions more easily. Also, by using groups and asking the pupils to discuss their conclusions, you will be exposing them to different fractions. Understanding fractions provides a foundation for thinking about division (‘share by’ equal parts is the first grasp of understanding division), ratio, proportion and decimals.

You may first want to refresh your own understanding of fractions by looking at Resource 1: Fractions.

Case Study 1: Using group work to explore simple fractions

Mr Umaru in Nigeria began his lesson with his Primary 5 class on fractions by cutting an orange into two equal parts and then into four equal parts, asking the pupils to name the parts – halves and then quarters. He introduced more simple fractions, showing each by folding rectangular pieces of paper. He emphasised that two halves make a whole, etc.

He then discussed with the pupils how things are shared in real life. As his class was large, he divided it into small groups of three. He drew a circle, a rectangle and a square on the chalkboard and asked each pupil to choose one shape and to draw it six times. He asked them to shade their drawings to show

  • a half
  • two halves
  • a quarter
  • two quarters
  • three quarters
  • four quarters

Each pupil in the group showed the others what they had done. He asked them if they could see any patterns in their pictures and some pupils pointed out that two quarters is the same as one half etc. They shared this with the other members of their group and with the class.

Even though his class was large, Mr Kofi found that his approach of working in groups meant that all the pupils got an initial understanding of equivalent fractions from their drawings and interaction with each other. He also felt they were well prepared for the next lesson he had planned.

Resource 2: Practical fractions gives another example which can be used with pupils.

Activity 1: Using fraction strips

Arrange pupils into groups of four. Give each group four strips of paper of equal length (see Resource 3: Fraction strips). In each group, ask one pupil to fold a strip into 2 equal parts; another into 4, and another into 8. One person in the group should not fold their strip.

Using the strips, can the groups agree:

  • How many halves (1/2) make a whole?
  • How many quarters (1/4) make a half (1/2)?
  • How many eighths (1/8) make a quarter (1/4)?
  • Then you could ask them to try some more difficult equivalent fractions, e.g.
  • How many eighths (1/8) are there in a half (1/2)?
  • How many eighths (1/8) are there in three-quarters (3/4)?

While the pupils are working, go around to help them. Share some of their answers with the class to show how fractions work.

Section 5: Practical work with fractions

2. Adding and subtraction with fraction strips