Teaching Equivalence in Fractions with Unlike Denominators to 4th Graders

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Once students get to the fourth grade, learning equivalence in fractions with unlike denominators is something that they can look forward to...or not look forward to. It can be a very tough lesson and something that is hard for the children to understand. They need to have a simple understanding of fractions already. They need to know what they are and how they add up together. Meaning that they need to understand that fractions are a part of a whole...a fraction of something, and that if the fractions are equal they can add up to create a whole. The easiest way to describe this and review it is with a circle representing a pie. Each slice comes from the pie and all put together its a whole. Also the stronger the students is with their multiplication tables and the corresponding division facts, the easier this lesson is going to be for them. But by the time the students get to the fourth grade they should have already been introduced to them and have a firm understanding of what they are and how to identify them.

One of the best ways to introduce the ideas of equialent fractions with unlike denominators are with visual aids. A fantastic way to introduce this is with a hands on activity for the children. Each child will have a baggie of "pie pieces" or wedge pieces of a circle in different fractions, and a sheet of paper with a whole circle drawn on it. (I have attached a photo of a set I made for better understanding). The teacher would work with the same pieces on the over head. Teacher pieces would be made with transparency and colored to match the students, but still see through on the overhead. Together the teacher and students would work through some example of equivalent fractions with unlike denominators. For example students would be instructed to place their 1/2 piece in their circle and than two 1/4th pieces on the other side. They would be able to see that two 1/4th pieces equal the 1/2 piece and that all that together equals a whole, or 1....
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