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.