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Getting Started with Fractions

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Like any concept in maths, it's best to explore it practically to begin with.

pie fraction and fractions of an apple
Fractions in real life contexts

There is a deliberate reason that the topic of fractions is usually taught following division. That's because fractions are another form of dividing something into equal parts. This important link is often overlooked.

Dividing by 3 means sharing something into 3 equal parts.

One third is also something divided into three equal parts.

The foundations of fractions start as early as nursery with activities in sharing items equally or cutting objects into equal parts. Fractions are usually part of every family meal time but the vocabulary is rarely used.

pizza fractions
Fractions in everyday life

Pizza, cake and so on are all really good experiences to introduce fractions practically. Who could ever forget learning about Maths whilst eating cake?

What fraction of the pizza do you have?

fraction visual image
Visual Fractions

However, the wider variety of experiences a child has with fractions, the easier they usually find them. Try to incorporate conversations about fractions into as many everyday tasks as you can:

  • Using 4/5 of a bag of pasta to make a meal

  • Using a quarter of a tub of ice-cream from the freezer

  • Painting a third of a wall before a tea break

The language around fractions takes a bit of practise too. Splitting something into four pieces can naturally be called fourths but for some reason we call it quarters. The more this vocabulary is incorporated into every day conversations, the quicker children can adopt it and use it in their conversations too. It also helps them to comprehend questions where words like halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths and so on occur.

As children become more familiar with the concept of fractions, they will be introduced to the mathematical terms 'denominator' and 'numerator' (see the bottom of this blog).

fractions as visual images
Fractions as different visual images

Children need to recognise fractions in pictures and be able to write the appropriate fraction.

They also need to colour a picture to represent a fraction they are given too.

What fraction of the triangle is yellow and what fraction is purple?

One third of the triangle is yellow.

Two thirds of the triangle is purple.

the different parts of a fraction
What is a fraction made up of?

The key to understanding fractions is being able to firstly understand the denominator; the number of equal parts. The numerator is the number of those parts we are focussing on.

Like with all mathematical concepts, never rush through them. Enjoy as much practical and real world connections as possible before moving on. Fractions are one of the most creative topics in Maths. Have fun with it.

In next week's edition, I will be looking at 'Finding the Fraction of an Amount'.

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