Jamestown Public Schools recently held a Fractions Progression Workshop, which was made available to all teachers in third and fourth grade. JPS Instructional Coach, Chad Bongiovanni, and Math Coordinator, Denise Pusateri presented the workshop.
In the workshop, teachers were introduced to the importance of using visual models, like number lines and tape diagrams, to teach fractions to students. Teachers also saw the importance of what they teach in their specific grade level and how it is influenced by previous grades and will also lay a foundation for future fraction work. For example, in first and second grades, students work on the concept of half of an object, a third of an object, and a fourth of an object (fractions are not written, just drawn). By the time students reach fourth grade, they must understand equivalent fractions, compare fractions, add and subtract fractions with the same denominator (or whole), multiply a fraction by a whole number.
“Fractions have been identified as one of the major influences on a student’s ability to be successful in Algebra,” said Mrs. Pusateri. “Fractions often get a bad reputation from people who had a difficult time understanding them when they were in school. Often people were taught the rules of fractions but not the, why? For example, if I were to ask someone how to divide fractions, they might say you multiply by the reciprocal or ‘Keep-change-flip.’ But why? And they will say because that is what a teacher told them. Following this rule never gets students to the heart of fraction work. The approach stressed to the teachers in the workshop will help to develop better fraction understanding in their students.”
Teachers learned that the key for student understanding is that fractions are numbers too. In the classroom, students will have to use fractions in application problems like: The living room as dimensions of 17 1/2 feet by 15 3/4 feet. Determine the area of the living room to help the Smith family purchase new carpeting, using fractions in real-life applications. Fifth and sixth grade teachers also attended a similar fractions workshop in November.