Custom Elementary Math and Reading Resources


Fractions: How to Make it Easy

How to use graph paper to solve Fraction Problems

I Found it!

Last week, I was looking for ways to help struggling fifth graders understand how to find the least common multiple and greatest common factors. I came across this video about comparing fractions. It got me wondering If I could apply it to adding and subtracting fractions. I was amazed at what I could do! Watch the video below that demonstrates comparing, finding the common denominator, mixed numbers, and simplifying fractions.

Comparing Fractions

Comparing fractions is really difficult for some students because they cannot yet visualize fraction, or struggle with their math facts. Being able to draw out the fractions helps them see which shape has a greater shaded area. All the students need to do is count the shaded part of each fraction to see which one has more. This works great to see if two fractions are equivalent also.

Adding and Subtracting

This strategy is an easy transition into find the least common multiple to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. After drawing out the fraction bars until they are equal lengths, students can count up the shaded and unshaded squares and end up with two fractions that have a common denominator. You can show students that what they really did was find the least common multiple. Show them that the total number of bars they drew is what they multiplied by. Students can then add or subtract the two fractions easily because they have like denominators.

Adding and Subtracting Fractions

Mixed Numbers

If the students add them, they may end up with an improper fraction. As a result, they need to turn it into a mixed number. To do this all they need to do is draw it out. Draw out the the fraction. Since the numerator is more than the total, they would add any additional bars the same length to shade in the remaining parts. They can easily see the number of whole bars and the fraction.

Improper Fraction to Mixed Number

Simplifying Fractions

For students that struggle with their facts, they can break the bar back up (divide into equal groups). They start with the part of the bar that is the least (the shaded or the unshaded). In this case it is the shaded. Break it up the two shaded block and redraw them one above the other. Then place each of the remaining blocks equally into those two groups. Students look at one of the groups they made and that is the simplified fraction.

Simplify Fractions

I am currently working on several different sets of digital task cards for students to practice these concepts. They are not done yet, but come back later and check out my store for new digital fraction resources!

What strategies have you used to help kids understand fractions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


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