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2 years ago
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It seems like all educators would agree that it can be difficult and frustrating to teach fractions, but learning fractions is a required skill for learners to have as they get older. In a recent article titled, "Are we forcing too many students to take high-level math they will never use?" the Atlanta Journal-Constitution addresses how math is taught in a recent article titled, "Are we forcing too many students to take high-level math they will never use?" The author, Maureen Downey, notes that as a nation, we continue to raise the bar for the math performance of our students, and notes that despite these high-level courses, many students struggle with the complex teachings. Some teachers claim that students can be advanced too easily by colleges, and they do not really master basic skills like fractions.

Although some higher-level mathematics courses are only necessary for some fields, basic mathematical skills, such as knowing fractions, are essential for all to learn. From cooking and carpentry to sports and sewing, fractions of our everyday lives can't escape us.

Fractions are hard

This isn't a new discussion subject. In reality, a Wall Street Journal article in 2013 spoke about what parents and teachers already know when it comes to math, fractions of which are difficult for many students to remember. In fact, the article cites statistics that can't place three fractions in order of size for half of the eighth graders. As many students fail to learn fractions, which are typically taught in third or fourth grade, research into how to help children learn fractions is currently supported by the government. The newer ways of teaching fractions use strategies that help children really understand what fractions mean by number lines or templates instead of using rote methods to teach fractions or relying on old techniques such as pie charts.

The educational business, Brain Pop, for instance, provides animated lessons and homework to help children understand concepts in math and other subjects. Their Battleship Numberline requires children to bomb a battleship using fractions between 0 and 1, and their teachers have noticed that the students' intuitive knowledge of fractions improves after students play this game. Other fraction teaching methods involve splitting paper into thirds or sevenths to see what fraction is greater and what denominators mean. Other methods include the use of new terminology for words such as "denominator" such as "fraction name," so students understand why fractions with different denominators should not be added or subtracted.

Using number lines allows children to compare various fractions, something that is difficult for them to do with conventional pie charts in which a pie is broken into parts. A pie split into sixths, for instance, may look a lot like a pie divided into sevenths. Moreover, the newer methods emphasize learning how to compare fractions until learners master processes such as adding, subtracting, separating, and multiplying fractions. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal report, a more significant indicator of fourth-grade math success than arithmetic skills or even the ability to pay attention is to position fractions on a number line in the correct order in the third grade. Furthermore, studies show that the ability of a student to comprehend fractions in fifth grade is also a predictor of long-term high school math achievement, even after IQ, reading ability, and other variables are monitored. In fact, the comprehension of fractions is considered by some experts as the door to later math learning, and as the basis for more advanced math and science classes such as algebra, geometry, statistics, chemistry, and physics.

Why fractions are important to learn

Math concepts such as fractions not learned in the early grades by students will later confuse them and cause them a lot of math anxiety. The new research demonstrates that students need to grasp concepts intuitively rather than only memorize language or symbols, as long-term comprehension does not benefit from such rote memorization. Many math teachers may not know that students may be confused by the language of math and that students need to understand the principles behind the language.

According to federal guidelines known as the Common Core Principles that are practiced in most jurisdictions, children who attend public schools now must learn to divide and multiply fractions by fifth grade. Studies have shown that public schools outperform private math schools, partially because math teachers in public schools are more likely to know and obey the latest studies related to math teaching. While most private school students do not have to show Common Core Standards mastery, teachers of private school math may also use new methods to teach fractions of students, opening the door to later math learning.

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