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Breanna Moore

S00117622

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Gaining insights from research for classroom planning

FRACTIONS
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Introduction
This paper aims to explore the key understandings, concepts and strategies of the mathematics
topic fractions. The paper will also attempt to explore this mathematical focus in relation to the
Australian Curriculum, including; the main aspects of the content, when it is taught and the overall
appropriateness of this curriculum area in relation to current research and findings.

Literature review
Within the Australian Curriculum, the mathematics topic fractions is a sub-strand of the content
strand Number and Algebra. Under this topic there are many key concepts and understandings
that teachers need to present to students, allowing opportunity to develop a conceptual
understanding of fractions and their application in varied contexts.

The first key concept of fractions is that there are many different interpretations
(constructs), representations (models), and coding conventions (Clarke, Roche &
Mitchell, 2008, p373), as well as the existing relationships between them all.
Students need to be taught all of these in order to successfully gain a deep
understanding of the notion of fractions. Van de Walle, Karp and Bay-Williams
(2010) stated that understanding fractions means understanding all the possible
concepts that fractions can represent (p287). Clarke et al. (2008), Pearn (2007) and
Van de Walle et al. (2010) explain that there are five fraction constructs, which are;
part-whole, measure, quotient, operator and ratio. As well as being familiar with all
of these constructs, students must be confident in using a range of fractional models
because different models offer different learning opportunities (Van de Walle et
al., 2010, p288). For example, an area model assists students to visualise parts of the
whole, where a length model helps demonstrate that there are other fractions
between any two fractions (Van de Walle et al., 2010). However, in order to have a
full understand of fractions students must also be able to recognise and understand
the relationships between the multiple conventions of fractions, including proper,
improper and mixed number fractions, decimals and percentage.

2.1
These sections
demonstrate that I
have obtained a
deep understanding
of the content
knowledge of
fractions. After
doing extensive
research on the
topic I was able to
determine and
explain the key
concepts that are
vital for teachers to
understand, in order
to then develop
conceptual
understanding
amongst students
when addressing
fractions in the
classroom.

Other key underpinning concepts of fractions that students should be taught and understand
include; the idea of fractional parts of the whole, meaning the parts that result when the whole
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Breanna Moore
S00117622

or unit has been partitioned into equal sized portions or fair shares (Van de Walle et al., 2010,
p291), what is meant by partitioning and iterating (Van de Walle et al., 2010) and the idea of
equivalence (Sexton, Brown & Downton, 2010).

Both Van de Walle et al. (2010) and Clarke et al. (2008) have expressed that
fractions is a challenging topic for many students to learn and understand.
Some of these challenges arise when students do not have the basic
understanding that fractions are not whole numbers and therefore, in most
cases, cannot be treated in the same way. Van de Walle et al. (2010)
strengthens this point by highlighting some of the whole number thinking that
students incorrectly apply when working with fractions, including; considering
the numerator and denominator as independent values and incorrectly
applying whole number operation rules for fraction computation. Other
common misconceptions that students may have regarding fractions are; that
two thirds means any two parts, not equal sized parts (Van de Walle et al.,
2010, p287), that you need only consider either the numerator or denominator
when ordering fractions (Van de Walle et al. 2010), and that multiplication
always makes bigger and division always makes smaller (Clarke et al., 2008,
p374).

2.1
Understanding and
being able to recognise
the common
misconceptions of a
topic is a vital part of
having deep content
knowledge. This section
of my review
demonstrates my
knowledge and
understanding of the
content and substance
of this topic that
students often have the
most difficulties.

There are numerous teaching strategies teachers can utilise to effectively address fractions and
lead students to a conceptual understanding of this topic, that also minimise common student
misconceptions like those listed above. Teachers should model to students how to participate in
mathematical thinking and working in the form of, but not limited to, benchmarking, number
lines, fraction walls, residual thinking, estimation and paper folding when working with fraction
problems (Clarke et al., 2008; Van de Walle et al., 2010; Sexton et al., 2010 & Pean, 2007). Specific
teaching strategies suggested by Naiser, Wright and Capraro (2004) that are effective for teaching
fractions include; using manipulatives, cooperative learning, building on prior knowledge,
authentic problems/questioning and using real life related problem solving. Another valuable
strategy teachers can use is the idea of providing tasks that have visually distracting elements
(Clarke et al., 2008); for example, representing both quarters and thirds on an area model.

Conclusion

2.1 & 2.5


This section highlights my extensive repitour of numeracy teaching strategies proven
effective when addressing fractions in the classroom.

As you can understand from reading this paper, school curriculums and teachers need to confront
the challenge of providing students with a conceptual understanding of rational number (Teaching
and Learning Research programme (TLRP, 2006). They need to understand all the necessary areas
of fractions and give students the opportunity to experience and explore them all. This paper also
helps to highlight that there is a lot more to fractions than included within the Australian
Curriculum, and educators need research and discover what these are in order to give students
the best chance of being confident and competent when working with fractions.

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Breanna Moore
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References
Australian Curriculum [ACARA]. (2012). Mathematics Scope and Sequence: Foundation to Level 6
[pdf]. Retrieved from
http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/auscurric/Maths_scope_and_sequence_AusVELS.pdf
Clarke, D., Roche, A. & Mitchell, A. (2008). 10 practical tips for making fractions come alive and
make sense. Mathematics teaching in the middle school, 13(7), 373-379.

Naiser, E. A., Wright, W. E. & Capraro, R. M. (2004). Teaching fractions: strategies used for
teaching fractions to middle grades students. Journal of research in childhood education,
18(3), 193-198.

Northcote, M., & McIntosh, A. (1999). What Mathematics do Adults Really do in Everyday Life?
Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 4(1), 19-21.

Pearn, C. A. (2007). Using paper folding, fraction walls, and number lines to develop understanding
of fractions for students from years 5-8. Australian mathematics teacher, 63(4), 31-36.

Post, T., Cramer, K., Behr, M., Lesh, R. & Harel, G. (2003). Curriculum Implications of Research
on the Learning, Teaching and Assessing of Rational Number Concepts: In Rational
Numbers. Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sexton, M., Brown, J. & Downton, A. (2010). Understanding fractions. Prime Number, 25(4), 3-7.

Teaching and Learning Research Programme [TLRP]. (2006). Fractions: Difficult but Crucial in
Mathematics Learning [Research Briefing]. (13), United Kingdom. Retrieved from
http://www.tlrp.org/pub/documents/no13_nunes.pdf

Van De Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S. & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2010). Elementary and middle school
mathematics: Teaching developmentally (7th ed.). USA: Person Education Inc.

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