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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Federal Research Suggests New Approach to Teaching Fractions

"Fraction camps" are just one technique researchers are exploring in their efforts to help students get a better grasp of one of the most troublesome topics in basic mathematics.

Photo: Education Week

Photo: Sarah D. Sparks
Sarah D. Sparks writes, "There are some basic properties of numbers any 3rd grader can tell you: Each number is represented by a single symbol, and followed by a single successor. Multiplication makes a number bigger; division makes it smaller."

The problem is, none of those qualities—true of whole numbers—is true when it comes to fractions, one of the most chronically troublesome basic mathematics areas for children and adults alike. Now, as the Common Core State Standards push for earlier and deeper understanding of fractions, researchers and teachers are exploring ways to ensure students learn more than a sliver of the fractions pie.

“Developmental research shows even very young children have a fundamental grasp of fractions that can be built on through instruction,” said Nancy C. Jordan, a professor of education in the University of Delaware’s School of Education.
But, she added, “If children are taught math in a way that’s very rote, where they memorize procedures … it really doesn’t help you much.” 

Source: Education Week