When I was an elementary student, fractions were by FAR my most difficult subject. I could not ever wrap my brain around them and embarrassingly enough, I still struggle to understand them. The other day I had trouble trying to figure what half of a 3/4 cup of butter would be! My cookies tasted a little more buttery than I would have liked. So today I am talking about misconceptions about fractions, because I’m really a pro!
This question was on a fourth grade test on fractions this week at one of my schools.
Amazingly, many students answered the question by saying they agreed with Molly. Their explanations said things like:
- “4/8 and 1/2 are the same number because they are equivalent.”
- “The diagram below each shows a half, so they are always the same.”
So somehow, somewhere we have a misconception here. Students are missing the idea that fractions can be different amounts if the whole is a different size. After all, one 8 inch pizza is not the same as one 16 inch pizza, right? I’d MUCH rather eat 1/2 of the 16 inch pizza!
My favorite way to clear up misconceptions is to relate it to real life…especially food. Food lends itself beautifully to math in so many ways. Once I brought in the skittles, suddenly light bulbs turned on. Equivalent fractions may be the same number, but they are not always the same amount.
I think we miss this step very often when we work with students. I think that real life connection is what helps them figure out what the symbols stand for. When we leave that out, students are unable to make sense of a problem.
If you want to see more examples of misconceptions that us math nerds have uncovered, check out The Math Spot: