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Excel Math Blog

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 Fun Ways to Add Fractions

When students begin learning about fractions, confusion can easily set in.

At times it may seem that a thick fog over your classroom has screened out any rational thinking and logic has simply flown out the window.

So here are five activities from Excel Math to bring some clarity back to your students and help them get a solid start on the fraction track.

What is our No. 1 suggestion for teaching students to add fractions? 

1. Use manipulatives and visuals including counters, fraction pieces, drawings, paper and scissors, tile and flooring, a school or community garden, fruit, snacks classroom tables, and even your classroom or storage closet.

Give your students hands-on experiences with breaking apart wholes into fractional parts and putting the parts together again. Here's one idea.

Give each pair of students a pack of blank 4 x 6-inch index cards.

Let the students work in pairs to discover how many cards it takes to cover a desk when the cards are touching but not overlapping, with no gaps between them.

Then ask the class to calculate how many cards would be needed to cover 1/4 of the desk, 1/2 of the desk, 1/3 of the desk, etc. 

fraction worksheet
Excel Math Fraction Worksheet

Excel Math is designed to combine math worksheets with hands-on activities and active learning. Our unique spiraling process helps students retain the math concepts for the long term. Here are four more hands-on math activities to help your students practice adding fractions.

Floor Tiles

Floor tiles

2. Use word problems that depict real-world situations:

Brian tiled 1/3 of his bedroom in the morning. (Draw a rectangular room on the board and have a student draw a line to show 1/3 of the area.) 

After lunch he tiled an additional 2/6 of the room. 

(Have a second student draw a line to show an additional 1/3 of the rectangle.) 

How much of the room has he tiled? (1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3) 

Have a student shade the total floor space that is tiled (2/3):

If Brian wants to tile the whole room, how much of his room still needs to be tiled? (3/3 - 2/3 = 1/3 = the unshaded space) 

Now draw a number line on the board from 0 to 10/5 in increments of 1/5. Create a similar masking tape number line on the floor. Let a student represent the following problem on the number line by drawing arrows on the board to show the solution: 

Add Fractions on Number Line

Have another student represent the problem on the tape number line. 

3. Add fractions on a number line:

Write a number line on the board but also create a line with masking tape on the floor. Show the numbers from 0 to 9/8 in increments of 1/8.

Prepare index cards with the numbers 1/8 to 8/8, one fraction per card.

Give a card to each of eight students. Have the students stand at various points along the number line  holding their cards (1/8, 2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8 and 8/8).

Ask the student on the one-half point on the number line to raise that card (4/8).

Do the same for the one quarter point (2/8), the 3/4 point (6/8) and the whole or 1 point (8/8).

Number Line

Number Line in Increments of 1/5

4. Represent addition problems with a life-size example:

Let your students measure your school or community garden or a classroom. Compute the area (length times width).

Explain that you are planning to plant 1/4 of the garden with tomatoes, 1/3 of the garden with carrots and 1/6 of the garden with flowers.

(Or you could paint 1/4 of your class ceiling one color, 1/3 of the ceiling another color, and paint 1/6 of the ceiling white.) Changing the problem to equivalent fractions we get:

3/12 + 4/12 + 2/12 = 

So the portion of the garden that will be planted will be 9/12 or 3/4. The unplanted portion of the garden will be 1/4 (3/12) of the total.




Flower Garden

slicing pizza

5. Divide a whole into fractional parts:

Give each of your students a paper plate and scissors. Have them pretend they are cooking a pizza. There are 8 people who want to try a piece.

Two of them want to have two pieces, the rest of the people just want one piece each. How many pieces should the pizza be cut into? (10) 

Let the students draw lines to divide their plates into 10 equal pieces. (They should first draw a line to divide the plate in half and then draw 5 equal sections on each half.)

Explain that we want to make 1/4 of the pizza pepperoni and 1/2 of the pizza cheese.

Have the students print a P in each section that would be pepperoni and a C in each section that would be cheese. (5 sections should be labelled C and 2.5 sections should be labelled P.) 

Let the students choose whether to make 1/5 of the pizza meat lovers or vegetarian and mark those sections with an M or V. How many sections should they have marked with M or V?  (2 sections) How much of the pizza is left to finish? (1/2 slice or 1/20th of the whole.)

After all this talk about food, you may want to provide your students with a slice or pizza or at least a graham cracker that they can partition into 2 or 4 equal parts to share with their classmates. Talk about how many halves (or quarters) make up a whole while the students eat. (Make sure your students do not have allergies to any of the foods you serve.)

If your students need more practice with fractions, try out this online card game from NCTM. (Also available for two players.) Students click on a card to turn it over, then indicate where the fraction (or a fraction less than the one shown) is located on several number lines. They can use their knowledge of equivalent fractions to indicate more than one fraction on the number lines. So for the 1/2 card they can find 5/10, 4/8, 3/6 and 2/4 (or any fraction smaller than 1/2) along with 1/2. When they turn over the next card, they can move the dot along the number line by adding the new number (or a number less than that one) to the first number. The object is to move the dots on all of the number lines from 0 to 1 by turning over as few cards as possible. Play the game.

Finally, download a practice worksheet on fractions for your students. Visit the manipulatives section of our website to print this free reproducible.

Use this lesson sheet as bell work to start the day or as a review or guided practice after introducing your class to fractions.

Students who finish early can make up their own word problems and number sentences involving fractions and then swap papers with a classmate to see if they can solve each other's math problems.

Fraction Worksheet

You might also like these articles:

Falling for Math: Ten Frame Activities 
Pumpkin Math: Subtraction
Letting Students Fail 
Shaping Up with Math  
Bridging the Gap to Common Core Math

New to Excel Math? Preview elementary math lessons that really work for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade on our website:

Excel Math is a proven mathematics curriculum for Kindergarten through Sixth grade students. Used in classrooms for more than 35 years, Excel Math curriculum carefully presents math in a spiraling fashion. Students learn and review different concepts throughout the year while developing a solid foundation of math skills. Learn more at

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