Using Manipulatives for Fractions, Equivalents, and Error Analysis

Lately we have been working on Fractions, Fractions, and more Fractions!  I found this year I needed to start with manipulatives.  We needed to be able to touch and move pieces to see how fractions with different denominators were equal.  I started by having my Smarties create their own fraction kits.

I used different colors of construction paper and worked with my groups on making the kits.  I wanted to spend time reinforcing the equivalent pieces, and thought this was best in small group.  Could I have used the standard fraction kit that is found in many of the math manipulative boxes?  Sure!  But I wanted each student to create a set to keep in their Interactive Math Notebook.  I knew I would be using them for more than one lesson, plus the power of making and discussing the fraction bars was something I needed my group to hone in on.   Once everyone had their kit created I hung anchor charts around my room and gave my students 5 minutes at each chart to create as many equivalent fractions as they could without duplicating.  They took their kits with them so they could use the manipulatives to make the fractions.  Kind of like a big kid rotate the room.

It was amazing watch them manipulate the fraction bars and explain to each other how 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/16 could be equivalent to 1/2.  The math conversation just made me giddy. I mean hello-- finding common denominators without even realizing we were finding common denominators, and being able to model draw the process.  This teacher was in her happy teacher place!
But wait!  That wasn't even THE BEST PART!  After we finished putting as many equal fractions as possible on our anchor charts.  We went back with our groups and found the errors on the charts.   Some of the fractions were not equivalent and we used our manipulatives to prove it to our group.

We crossed out the incorrect fractions on the charts, discussed, and then wrote about why the fractions were not equivalent.  This was great practice for our spring assessments.  Students will have to do some error analysis with explanations on the assessment, and we need to kick our writing into high gear.  It was an amazing way to get started on fraction work with hands on materials.  Were they perfect?  No....Did they find all of their mistakes? No... But all the better because they charts stayed up in our room, and as they become better with fractions, they are still finding them, and talking about them, and reworking them in their fuzzy little brains!  WOOT WOOT!

When we return from break I'm going to use my Fraction Pops as a review center.  Students have to work together to find equavalent fractions and add and subtract fractions with like and unlike denominators.  Each skill is written on a piece of popcorn, once one problem is solved students use the answer to help solve the next problem.  There are 6 different sets included plus a page for a formative assessment or interactive notebook.  I'll probably use this for 2 weeks worth of group work.  which will really help with center planning.

Do you use fraction bars with your "Big Kids?"  I would love to hear your ideas.  Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know ways that you help make abstract thinking more concrete.

1 comment

  1. Hey Michele! Great ideas. I want to use this with my below-grade level group of sixth graders, but I'm not sure exactly how to get them all to make their fraction bars equivalent. They're a group of kids who like moving *fast* and need lots of reminders to slow down. Any suggestions on how to present the instructions?


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