Sometimes children hear the word 'fractions' and they turn off.
I saw it on Wednesday when I started my lesson on comparing and ordering fractions. I had barely uttered the words when I saw a few heads drop. A few children joined in when I asked them what they knew about fractions – one knew the word 'third'; someone else knew 'part'; yet another one knew they have something to do with division. But quite a few heads with dropped.
So while the keen had their hands up, and others were looking to avoid eye contact, I slid an empty coffee mug into an empty plastic bag. Then, for security, whilst the conversation continued, I placed the first plastic bag into a second one.
Then I smacked it against the wall. Really hard.
All the children looked – some jumped.
I proceeded to pull pieces out of the bag and estimate how much of the mug each piece had been, from the large chunks (1/3 or 1/5) to the tiny chips that were only 1/1000 or maybe even smaller.
The children were engaged and by the end of the lesson all of them had made some progress about ordering and comparing fractions. Even the special needs group children who, according to their data, struggle to order numbers 1-100.
As a bonus, we even specified that the bottom of the fraction was called the denominator and the top number the numerator – I love it when children learn proper maths words, although it was amusing to hear one child call the top number the nominator and the bottom number the dominator.
So, if you're stuck with teaching fractions – break something. At least you'll stop the heads from dropping…