I love to use fractions as my test content to see if a technique really works. Fractions are, I think, one of the trickiest topics for students to understand and for teachers to make interesting. So many fraction lessons end up trying to entice students by dividing up pies and pizzas. This is not interesting! (This goes with my goal to make lessons “interesting”, merely not “challenging”.)
So, what if we used a universal theme to encompass a study of fractions? This very big ideas get me thinking about fractions in a new way.
They will help me to build my lesson around questions like:
- Which has more power: the numerator or the denominator? (I have a Byrdseed.TV lesson about this.)
- A fraction is a system. In what ways do the numerator and denominator affect and interact with each other?
- Explain the conflict in a fraction. How are the numerator and denominator opposed to each other? (Do check out an example built on this idea.)
- What happens when a fraction changes? How does a change in the numerator affect the fraction? What about the denominator?
Many of these questions lead me to the same idea: numerators and denominators can work together or be opposed to each other. I think that fractions become interesting when you look at them as two parts that can both compete and cooperate. This allows students to connect to bigger ideas that cross disciplines. Numerators and denominators are locked in conflict/cooperation like:
- Rome’s plebians and patricians
- the branches of the US government
- the various parts of an ecosystem
Once I realize that a fraction is similar to an ecosystem or a group of people, I’m off to the races! By starting with a Universal Theme, I now have the inspiration I need to go way beyond the default “pizza slices” fraction lesson and start exploring some truly interesting ideas.