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Katie Clow

EDUC-5433

2 March 2015

Phelps, K. (2012). The Power Of. Teaching Children Mathematics, 19(3), 152-157.

Phelps (2012) describes the use of differentiated number sets within cognitively guided

instruction (CGI) when teaching how to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators to

her grades 4/5 class in her article "The Power of". She states that she faced a dilemma when it

came time to teach her class addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators,

since it was not in the curriculum for her grade 4 students. After some deliberation, she decided

to take a step back from the curriculum and give all her students the opportunity to learn how to

compute fractions by using differentiated number sets. She offered her students a choice between

2 sets; a, which involved more accessible fractions or b, a more challenging set. Then, she began

a 3 day lesson which would allow her students to work independently through the problems

given. On the first day, they read through the problems as a class and reviewed students' work

with like denominators to lead into their exploration of unlike denominators. She then directed

students to begin their independent solving, to stay focused on their goal of finding the like

denominator within their goal of finding the like denominators within their number sets, and use

math fraction bars as well as pictures to support their work. As the students began working,

Phelps noticed that some of her students were using circles to solved the first problem rather than

fraction bars. This was problematic because students tended to cut the circles into unequal

sections and tried to combine mismatching pieces. She let this go for day 1, and on day 2 paired

students using circles with students using fraction bars (and who were both working with the

same number set). The goal was to confirm their solutions by collaboratively re-solving the

problems, and allowed to share their methods without the intimidation of sharing with the whole

class and the teacher. Phelps saw improvements after 2 days and was confident students were

gaining understanding of unlike denominators and that spending extra time on it was worth it. On

the final day, student pairs reunited and chose one problem to explain to the class. From the

explanations it was clear that her students had developed and used different models to solve each

problem.

Looking back on her lesson, Phelps was able to conclude that her students, regardless of

ability level, were able to access math due to differentiated problem sets. What came out of her

lesson was a far deeper understanding than could have ever been gained from a "quick trick"

lesson. she also points out that if she had not taken the extra tie for the lesson, her students would

not have been able to gain their own understanding of the topic.

This article is very useful as it points out how math should not be taught based on

curriculum timeline, but rather by out students understanding and ability. Differentiation is very

important when it comes to math, and especially when it comes to fractions. Spending extra time

on teaching fractions proves to be successful, or so the case was in Phelps' experience. As

educators, we need to allow room for students to take a more natural course in their math

learning based on their skill and not solely on grade level. Flexible grouping deems to be very

important.

Wilkerson, T., Bryan, T., and Curry, J. (2012). An Appetite for Fractions. Teaching Children

Mathematics, 19(2), 90-99.

Wilkerson et al. (2012) explores 30 grade 6 students and their experiences in the GEAR

UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) in their article "An

Appetite for Fractions." These students meet each semester to be engaged in hands-on

investigations which support mathematical understanding. During this particular session, the

sixth-grade students explored fractions using Hershey's candy bars. The lesson is a combination

of small-group, partner and whole class activities that include opportunities for students to

communicate mathematical thinking to their teacher and peers. The basis of the lesson relies on a

student's ability to connect concepts and ideas about fractions, including the meaning of a

fraction and various equivalent relationships. To begin the lesson, the instructor gets the students

to choose whether they want a whole candy bar, half or none. Of course, the majority chose a

whole. However, those who chose the whole bar got a whole mini candy bar, while those who

chose half got half of a full-sized chocolate bar. Students who received the whole found this

unfair, thus making the instructor's point that we must specify the whole to compare the "size" of

two fractions. To understand half we must know what represents the whole. As the lesson

continues, the class establishes what a whole is (which is a full-sized candy bar) and then goes on

to discuss the variety of ways to make one-half, one-third, one-fourth and so on using the whole

candy bars and cut-outs which are taped up on a poster board. After these connections are made,

the instructor begins to develop ideas about equivalent fractions. For example, the instructor asks

"How many halves make one?" where the students reply "Two". The instructor then replies and

says "Two halves make one, so how should we write that?" The students reply, "Two over two."

The students write that on their recording sheet, and continue similar investigations for the

remaining fractions, with focused discussions of the meaning of the parts of the fraction,

observations about different models found and relationships to equivalent fractions.

Misunderstandings that students usually have are also addressed during the session.

This article is a great resource for teaching fractions. Even though it focus' on grade 6

students, the article states that the lesson can be modified for grades 3, 4, and 5. It also provides

additional extensions to the lesson, which would allow observation of student conceptual

understanding of equal parts and its role in equivalent relationships. The candy bar lesson also

allows students to explore a variety of models, which is important for gaining a deep conceptual

understanding of fractions.

Primary Mathematics Classroom, 16(2), 17-22.

Mills' article called "Body fractions: A Physical Approach to Fraction Learning" explores

a kinesthetic way to help students better understand fractions. Mills begins her article by stating

that many students experience great difficulty understanding the meaning of fractions, and that

they find fractions meaningless and confusing. Her research shows that these feelings are

because students' learning has frequently been based on rules and procedural computation, while

conceptual understanding has often been minimal. She explains the chronological order that

fraction concepts, and explains that there is a substantial body of evidence stating that concrete

materials, such as math manipulatives, helps students to understand mathematical concepts. She

also points out that finding a range of suitable real world models is recognized as part of good

teaching, which is why she wanted to find something to use that students could relate to. Mills

acknowledges that the use of the body does not show the pieces as being equal in size (an

important criterion when defining fractions as a whole). However, she notes that it is a useful,

fun model that illustrates an important concept, and that this activity may lead to discussion at a

later date which includes the concept of equivalent fractions. The activity begins with

establishing with students what fractions can be made. For example, one-whole is represented by

stretching out both arms to the side horizontally; one-half is represented by stretching out just

one arm; one-fourth is represented by stretching out one arm up to the elbow then bending the

forearm over the upper arm. Using these three representations, students can individually, or in

groups, construct different fractional quantities.

Mills states that she has found this activity to work well with grades 5 to 8. She found

that the activity seemed to generate a lot of discussion among the members of each group, as

well as some disagreement, which allows for problem solving. Mills believes that body fractions

enables students to experience multiple representations of the whole, half and fourth as fractions

that are greater than the whole are something which many students struggle with. It also allows

for the extension into the set value and decimal values of the equivalent fraction.

Mills' technique of body fractions seems like a memorable way for students to learn

fractions. However, like she had stated in her article, it does not allow for the representation of

equivalent fractions. This would be a good way to better engage kinesthetic and visual learners,

and would perhaps work as an introductory activity to the topic of fractions.

Groff, P. (1996). Is Teaching Fractions a Waste of Time? The Clearing House, (69)3, 177-179.

Groff (1996) points out the pressures put on teachers to teach their students how to add,

subtract, multiply, and divide fractions. He even points out how NCTM argues that there must be

an increase in time that is devoted to teaching fractions. He argues that there is a to-down notion

for teacher to teach fractions, and even discovered that 15 to 25 percent of pages in middle

school math textbooks were dedicated to teaching fractions. though this all may be true, Graff

argues just how pertinent fractions are in our everyday life and are we as educators accurately

teaching our students about fractions. He continues to point out that many students and even

some teachers fail to see the importance of fractions and many students seem to harbor a

particular dislike for fractions study.

Groff points out that his study revealed that traditional fractions instruction is highly

vulnerable to criticism from a number of angles. Perhaps the low test scores on fractions reveals

that the traditional methods are no longer effective. Groff points out that it became increasingly

clear as he moved through his study that the defenses made from traditional fractions teaching

are based almost wholly on opinions and conclusions presented as logical deductions, rather than

on empirical data. He also points out that fractions are seen as valuable and, like mountains, take

time to be conquered. Even with this conclusion, Groff argues that the notion that time should be

taken away from other mathematics topics so as to provide more for fractions has yet to be

proved.

Rather than spending more time on teaching fractions, we as teachers need to act as

change agents and become more comfortable with fractions. We need to find new and engaging

ways to teach them. By doing this, students will become more aware of the importance of

fractions and will ultimately strive to improve their performance when it comes to fractions. I

think that this article serves as a reminder that as teachers we need to put our own personal

opinions about subjects aside and be confident in teaching the tough subjects in order for our

students to be confident in learning and mastering a new mathematical concept.

Ploger, D., & Rooney, M. (2005). Teaching Fractions: Rules and Reason. National Council of

Teachers of Mathematics, 12(1), 12-17.

Ploger and Rooney (2005) point out that many children cringe at the very thought of

computing with fractions. They state that as concerned teachers, it's important to have the

appropriate knowledge and materials before teaching fractions. The authors also point out that

young children have a beginning understanding of fraction concepts. In many instances,

however, educators ignore this powerful intuitive knowledge, and as a result, students learn

computation of fractions by rote. Although young children have this basic knowledge, these

intuitions do not automatically develop into a strong understanding if fraction concepts. As

teachers we need to develop a visually and through hands-on activity, as well as a set of rules

which are useful and meaningful.

Ploger and Rooney (2005) present 6 simple rules that are easy to apply when simplifying

fractions. These rules include: the numerator equals rule, the numerator of 1 rule, the even

numerator rule, the half-rule, the consecutive-number rule, and the prime denominator rule. In

addition to these 6 rules, they present a general rule, which uses the greatest common factor.

From teaching and using these rules in their classrooms, the authors found that in many

examples, one of the simple rules could be used to reduce a fraction to lowest terms.

As teachers, we can introduce these rules to enhance children's understanding of

fractions. The goal Ploger and Rooney tried to make with the article is to make the rules as

helpful and meaningful as possible. the rules should help with number sense and abstraction.

When these rules are combined with other engaging teaching methods should make

understanding fractions easier for many elementary students and would be beneficial in any

classroom.

Gabriel et al. (2012). Developing Children's Understanding of Fractions: An Intervention Study.

Mind, Brain and Education, 6(3), 137-146.

Gabriel et al. (2012) studied the development of students' conceptual knowledge, which

is the ability to represent number magnitudes. It compared conceptual development to procedural

development when it comes to learning fractions, which brings to light some of the difficulties

children have when learning fractions. Some evidence shows that conceptual knowledge plays a

major role in the generation and adaptation of procedures. To help develop conceptual

knowledge and to demonstrate their point, they created an intervention that would be given to

students who were not in the control group. This intervention, aiming at developing and

consolidating the representation of fraction magnitude. The intervention was based on several

educational principles: learning by doing ,starting with a concrete support to progressively build

more abstract representations, playfulness and collaboration. The intervention consisted of

adaptations of 5 card games (memory, old maid, war, treasure hung and blackjack). Wooden

discs cut into pieces from halves to twelfths were manufactured to help children manipulate

fractions and represent fractional magnitudes. This teaching aid allows children to manipulate

concrete equipment and progressively construct a representation of fractions.

Data showed that pupils who received the intervention improved more than children from

the control groups for conceptual items of the test given. the intervention had a positive impact

on pupils motivation and allowed them to conceptually grasp the task at hand rather that just

procedurally.

The authors conclude that children may benefit by doing style interventions in the long

term, and that pupils could use their conceptual understanding to develop a more appropriate

representation of fractions, which might help them create further procedural knowledge.

This study showed clear improvements in conceptual understanding of fractions in grades

4 and 5 after an educational intervention aimed at helping children associate fractional notations

with magnitudes. The conceptual improvements allowed children to develop some elementary

arithmetic procedures with fractions. this study shows us that as educators we need to recognize

the importance of developing conceptual knowledge in order for procedural knowledge to also

be developed.

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