Best Children’s Books and Activities for Teaching Fractions
Many children and adults are intimidated by fractions. I used to be one of those people, until I realized how much fun it can be to teach and learn about fractions. I believe that a combination of using picture books and hands-on activities is the best way for students to learn fractions.
This article provides a list of picture books about fractions along with related games and activities to use in your classroom. Teachers by nature are creative beings. I'm sure that you will come up with wonderful ideas to use in your classroom in addition to the ones that I have shared here with you.
Children's Books About Fractions
- by Scott Gifford. This book is simplistic in its approach to teaching the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents. With a simple photograph of an everyday object along with the corresponding fraction and its decimal and percent equivalent, children are able to easily connect the relationship between the three. Piece=Part=Portion: Fractions=Decimals=Percents
- Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy. In Fraction Action, Loreen Leedy entices her readers with cartoon illustrations of animals in a classroom. It begins with the students looking at various fractions, from halves to thirds to fourths. The students are able to share their own life connections to the halves, thirds, and fourths that they see in their everyday lives. As the book continues, the fraction concepts increase in difficulty. Ideas such as fraction of a set and fair share are covered.
- Working With Fractions by David A. Adler. This fun and colorful book is filled with wonderful opportunities to expand vocabulary. Terms such as numerator and denominator are paired with colorful pictorial representations that are sure to help those tough concepts come alive for elementary children. The story concludes with some introduction to adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions.
- Give Me Half by Stuart J. Murphy. Give Me Half is a wonderful book to introduce children to the concept of fractions. Its simplistic language and basic information about sharing objects with others is the perfect beginning for a fractions unit.
Activities and Games for Teaching Fractions to Kids
Using hands-on manipulatives is a great way for students to better understand math concepts. The more that students are able to move objects around, play games, discuss their thinking, or build and create things, the more concretely they will understand the concept. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate hands-on activities to help your students understand fractions.
Remember that there are many levels to teaching fractions. Listed below are a few ideas from the beginning stages of understanding to a more advanced understanding.
This is great for equivalent fractions. Teaching children equivalent fractions always seems to throw off their thinking. How can one half be the same as two fourths? Using fraction bars to help students find bars that are "equal" to each other is a great starting point. It will also most likely lead to a conversation about some fractions being very close to equivalent but not exactly equal.
Fraction of a Set
This is probably one of the hardest concepts for my students to get. It is very difficult for them to understand that the whole is the entire group, while the part or fraction is the individual pieces. I love using colored candy for this type of concept.
- Give each student an individual bag of Skittles or M&Ms candies.
- Talk about the "bag of candy" being the whole group of candy.
- When you empty the bag, discuss how these are the parts that make up the whole bag of candy.
- Show how you can represent that 8/14 are blue candies or 5/14 are red candies.
This then opens the discussion to numerator and denominator and possibly even equivalent fractions, depending on the level of your students.
Fractions in Our Lives
Making real-world connections is critical for deeper knowledge and understanding. Create a classroom poster or bulletin board display where children are able to add ideas about fractions, decimals or percents. It can be a picture or an example of one of these from a newspaper, magazine or label, an idea that they have or even a spot where they can post questions about fractions.
You can model this first and then send students off to work with partners or small groups. I love the idea of children displaying their work on small posters with their thinking (drawings, examples, explanations, etc.) and then allowing them to do a gallery walk. A gallery walk is when children take time to walk around and look at the display of posters and then go back to their seats to share what they saw or write a short reflection of their learning.
What are your favorite materials to help children learn fractions?
Fractions Are Fun, Not Overwhelming!
Remember that teaching and learning fractions doesn't have to be overwhelming or scary. Children love to use a variety of tools to help that learning stay with them. The more variety that you incorporate in your lessons, the more your students will retain the information. Picture books are a great starting point for learning about a variety of math concepts, including fractions.