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How To Teach Fractions to Preschool and Kindergarten Students
As with all areas of math, fraction concepts should be communicated to young children with developmentally appropriate hands-on experiences and lots of playful activities. Concrete objects like pattern blocks and 3D fraction shapes allow children to make sense of new math concepts or abstract ideas. Children need fraction experiences that:
- integrate one’s senses
- invite them to experiment and make observations
- let them learn at their own pace, and
- give them time to explore a subject in greater depth
It is important that preschool and kindergarten math classes provide opportunities for young children to develop fraction number sense. Before children are able to perform operations (addition, subtraction…) with fractions, they need a lot of time for fraction games and playing. This will help them visualize fractions and understand that fraction segments are equal parts of a larger object, skills needed for more advanced fraction concepts. It is not necessary to teach fraction symbols (1/2, 1/3…) in kindergarten or kindergarten.
Young children are working towards the following, skills needed for more advanced fraction concepts in future years:
- be able to visualize fractions and
- understand that fraction segments are equal parts of a larger object,
Introduce fractions with cooking, stories and games
Cooking activities introduce children to the language of fractions and help them relate fractions to their everyday experiences. By participating in these activities, children become familiar with fraction terms such as whole, part, half, thirds, quarters. For example – Cut the muffin in half, fill the cup half full, use part of the whole orange, put peanut butter on one half of the bread and jam on the other half of the bread, cut the sandwich in quarters…
Use math manipulatives and toys with puppets to make up simple stories
Here is an example of a circle time story using an apple splitting toy, 2 puppets and a basket:
Marty the moose heard a knock on his door (knock on the board). He opened the door (squeal) and there was his friend, Sam the squirrel..
Improvise and have the puppets take turns cutting the apples and sharing them, keeping in mind that the aim is to introduce and help children become familiar with the idea of equal sized pieces that are part of a whole object and fractional terms such as halves, quarters, thirds.
Play simple fraction games in a small group
Depending on your class size, you may need to divide the class into small groups, with one half working in independent math centers with modeling clay, drawing, blocks or puzzles and the other half playing the game of fractions. As children play games and play with fraction toys, they will develop fraction number sense.
The more time children spend playing with toys and fraction manipulatives, the more their ability to visualize fractions as equal parts of a whole will increase. For easy fraction game ideas, go to http://www.kindergarten-lessons.com/fraction_games.html
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