Learning fractions for the first time can be tricky. It involves a different set of rules outside what a child is used to. A child may be able to count numbers, add, subtract, and even multiply them, but he faces different kinds of challenges when dealing with fractions.
- Fractions at first acquaintance look cumbersome, complex, and intimidating, especially to a child who has only been dealing with whole numbers.
- The rules guiding the operations of fractions are different. (2 + 2 is 2 + 2 anywhere, but ½ of 4 balls is different from ½ of 50 balls). While it may look simple and ordinary to an experienced adult, children may find it challenging.
- The operations of fractions are not straightforward. Unlike with integers, you can't simply add and subtract them.
For a child with an existing phobia against math, the sight of fractions can be highly intimidating and discouraging if not adequately handled. It is therefore critical to formulate a simple framework to make learning fractions easy.
This article explores the best ways you can learn and understand fractions easily.
Let's dive in.
What are Fractions
Fraction originated from the Latin word fractus, meaning broken. Thus, the word fraction represents a part of something whole. Learn math the easy way out!
When you take a small part out of something whole, the amount you take out is a fraction of the total. So, for instance, if you share an orange between two people. Each of them has a part (or a fraction) of the orange. So they'd each have ½ of the orange.
If the orange is, however, shared between 3 people, each would have 1/3 of it. And 1/5 if the orange is shared between 5 people.
Well, the concept of fractions goes beyond math class. It surpasses an ordinary prerequisite that must be passed to get promoted. It's a tool that helps you understand and make sense of the world you live in. It allows you to picture quantities and numbers as factual rather than abstract.
Here are some areas where you can practically apply fractions:
Applications of Fractions
Mathematics as a subject appears abstract because students and pupils find it challenging to get a place for its application in real life. While they understand the need to count things, it's all they could think of about the practical application of math. As a result, they see topics like geometry and algebra as highly abstract and unforgiving.
One way to break the barrier is first to understand how and where various topics are practically applicable. That way, students will have pictures at the back of their minds as they work through several exercises.
Fraction, however, is a concept that's basic to mathematics as a subject. It's a fundamental prerequisite for working with numbers. In practice, you work less with integers and more with fractions.
Some areas of application of fractions include:
- Cooking: Recipes in cooking are applied as fractions. "Add two-third of a tablespoon salt." "Dilute with 50% water." You'll also have to scale up or scale down the quantity of ingredients based on the number of mouths you cook for.
- Sharing: You're always sharing things: Bills, work, food, time, etc. To do justice to the sharing, fractions must be applied.
- Finance: Fraction is used in almost every aspect of the finance industry to calculate tasks, interest, profit, loans, etc.
- Time: If the time is not on the clock, it involves fractions—a quarter of an hour, half past 2.
- Ecommerce: Ecommerce stores offer discounts as fractions. Percentages, to be specific. "20% off this summer," "60% off."
- Mixing: Industries like pharmaceutical, food, and construction mix ingredients and components in various proportions. Fractions are used in the mixing.
Understand Common Terms in Fraction
Some terms are crucial to understanding fractions. Here are they:
Numerator: The numerator is the upper part of a fraction. For instance, in the fraction 3/5, 3 is the numerator.
Denominator: The denominator is the lower part of a fraction. In 3/5, the denominator is 5.
Vinculum: I didn't know this until after school, but the line that separates the upper and lower parts of a fraction is called a vinculum.
LCM: Lowest (or least) Common Multiple is the lowest number that can be divided by two or more numbers. LCM is required to add and subtract fractions.
Integers: Integers are the opposite of fractions. They are whole numbers without decimal parts. 9 is an integer; 100 is an integer. 9.1 is not; 100.5 is not. Integers are either positive or negative. -9 is a negative integer.
Learning Fractions The Easy Way
One of the most challenging hurdles in learning fractions, especially for first-timers, is grasping the concept.
How do they conceptualize and internalize fractions the way they internalized integers and alphabets? How do they see, feel, breathe, and become grounded with it?
Essentially, their understanding of the concept depends on how it's presented to them. And the analogies and metaphors used in the explanation.
Here are some suggestions:
Picking Out: Since fractions means a part of something whole, the concept can be learned or taught by exploring picking out:
Let's use pizza as an example: If a pizza is cut into eight parts and one of the eight parts is taken out, the part taken out represents 1/8 of the whole pizza. So the remaining amount becomes 7/8.
If you take two parts out, the part taken out would be 2/8, while the remaining portion would be 6/8.
Division/Sharing: Fractions are essentially division; they can be learned through the concept of division. Imagine sharing an orange between 4 people. Each one of them gets 1/4. If you share the same orange between 6 people, each gets 1/6.
This concept is often illustrated in primary books by dividing objects like balls into several parts, say 4. And then labeling each piece accordingly – 1/4, 1/3, 1/8, etc.
It's an effective way of helping children grasp the concept.
However, there are three types of fractions:
Types of Fractions
Proper fraction: A proper fraction is a fraction whose numerator is smaller than the denominator. 3/8 is a proper fraction.
Improper Fraction: In an improper fraction, the denominator is greater than the numerator: example, 8/3.
Mixed Fraction: A mixed fraction is a combination of a whole number and a proper fraction. Example 1 3/4, 2 4/5. Mixed fractions are derived from improper fractions. Learn more about divisions.
Performing Operations with Fractions
After grasping what fractions are, the next thing is to learn how to manipulate them.
It involves performing basic operations with them—operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Here's a brief:
Addition and subtraction of fractions: Like ordinary integers, fractions can be added. But, not as straightforward. To add fractions, you need to find the LCM of the denominators first. Here's a quick guide on adding fractions. Subtracting fractions follows the same procedure as addition. You have to be confident with finding LCM to perform them.
Multiplication and division of fractions: The next operation to learn after addition and Subtraction is multiplication and division. For this, you don't need to find LCM. It's as simple as multiplying and dividing the numerators and denominators.
Conversion between improper and mixed fraction
Improper fractions hide a lot of details. They are not visual enough. Many people prefer to express improper fractions as mixed to get a clearer picture. For example, 10/4 is an improper fraction. It does not communicate the magnitude of its value until it is converted to mixed as 2 ¼. That's two and a half. Learn more here.
Fractions and Percentages
To enjoy the full power and benefit of understanding fractions, you need to be able to convert them to percentages and vice versa. Percentages are a better way of expressing fractions. They give a more precise picture of what fractions are.
For instance, 1/4 might sound and look abstract and probably be attributed to math gurus only. Saying 25 percent, even though it means 1/4 is generally understood across the board. It is more picture-oriented and generally acceptable across all fields.
It is, therefore, a critical skill to be able to convert fractions to percentages. To do so, multiply the fraction by 100, and you have the percentage equivalence of the fraction.
See these best math revision aids that can help you learn fractions.
To become grounded with fractions, you'd have to do a lot of it. Like any other math topic, the secret is practice.
- Practice: The first way to master the concept is to practice as much as you can. Dig through different texts for as many exercises as possible. Some apps and websites can help you practice. Check them out.
- Mental Effort: Always try to make the mental effort to picture fractions when you hear or see them. For instance, you may hear in the news that 3 out of every 4 Canadians use Facebook. You should cautiously note that it means 3/4 of Canadians use Facebook. Converting it to percentage means 75 percent. Doing this mentally will help you master fractions quickly.
- Fraction Games: Fraction games can help you quickly comprehend the concept. Games like Roll slide, Shake it up, and Jump into fraction are great games that put you on your toes with fractions. They build your accuracy and speed. Check them out.
Fractions might appear like little monsters at first sight. But they are just as kind and as simple as little birds. They are easy to grasp and wide in applications. They help you understand the world you live in, one digit at a time.
Have fun learning fractions. Learn more about times table.