Most kids need to “see” fractions in order to completely understand them. All kids have different learning styles, but visual, hands-on lessons seem to make fraction lessons much more fun and very easy to comprehend. Having a solid foundation of basic fraction concepts will make the advanced concepts easier to learn.
So just when do we use fractions around the house? We measure ingredients when we make cookies or a casserole…an eighth of a cup of this and a fourth of a cup of that. We divide the hour when we tell time -- it's half past two or it’s a quarter of five. Mom and Dad use fractions when they plan their budget. Their boss uses fractions when he figures the payroll. Sewing is full of fractions as is carpentry.
The most common hands-on visual for fractions is usually cutting a pizza into slices. The light bulb goes off and kids “get it”. Drag out the measuring cups and measuring spoons. Have the kids help you bake cookies. Turn the baking into a mini lesson. If I bake 10 cookies and I want 5 of them, what fraction is that? I have 20 cookies and there are 4 of us, how many do we each get? Introduce the idea of splitting cookies in half. As your child gets better and understands more, begin doubling and halving the recipe. Change the measurements in recipes to improper fractions and have your child convert them.
When asking your child to reduce a fraction, you might get a blank stare. Try asking your child to reduce 5/15 by saying you get 5 out of 15 cookies so what fraction is that? It makes it easier for them to understand they get 1/3. Sometimes they way we say things makes it easier or harder for kids, and we certainly don’t need more math anxiety. Try saying “shared” rather than “divided” in some of your fraction word problems. It makes it easier to visualize.
Have your homeschooler work on fractions at the grocery store. The kids are having friends over Saturday and they want each person to have 4 cheese crackers each for a snack. Have them figure how many packages they need to purchase based on how many crackers they will need.
Just try to have fun with your kids as they learn math using everyday life skills. You will both be happier.