Fractions - Why Do Students Find Them Difficult?
Yeap Ban Har
Pathlight School and Anglo Singapore International School
Let's solve two problems to see what is it that makes fractions difficult and what are the main ideas students need in learning fractions.
This discussion add to the learning experiences that we discussed at the pre-conference. The learning experiences are needed for all lessons. Today's 90-minute discussion focuses on things specific to learning fractions.
A major culprit is the notation used to represent fractions. Do students know that the numerator is but a name? If the know that then everything else they need is from whole number ideas - except equivalent fractions.
Do we focus on the teaching of equivalent fractions.
Through Problem 1, we see the learning of equivalent fractions in a conceptual way that requires visualisation and meaning-making. Students lack of relational and instrumental understanding of fractions is one major obstacle in learning fractions.
While we obsess with additions and multiplication facts for whole number concepts, do we pay the same amount of attention to the basics in fractions which is renaming a fraction in multiple ways? In the learning of finding equivalent fractions, are students merely learning the procedures without any kind of reasonable understanding? Is the learning connected to previous knowledge or is it "multiply the numerator and denominator with the same number"?
In summary, problems with fractions can be fixed by teaching the fraction notation and equivalent fractions well.
As I said, this is one of the easiest problem in the learning of mathematics to fix.