A Fraction of our Time in Math Class…

I absolutely love fraction work with my students because there is always something interesting that leaves me pondering the whys and hows of my practice….

Being a K-5 Math Specialist for a couple years offered me the opportunity to really see the trajectory of our fraction work. Now being back in the classroom, I feel I have a much better grasp as to the work the students have previously done within our math program.  In third grade, they work tremendously with halves, thirds, and sixths using polygons to represent fractions of a hexagon whole for comparison and addition/subtraction. In fourth grade, students use arrays and known equivalencies to compare and add/subtract fractions with unlike denominators by choosing an appropriate array that works for both fractions (common denominator). In addition, at each grade level, students in need of RTI enrichment, work in Marilyn Burns’ Do The Math Program which utilizes fraction strips to compare and add/subtract fractions. All of this work focuses heavily on the students’ understandings of equivalencies.

Knowing all of this still never prepares you for the power of a new model….time! I have to admit, I am a huge fan of fraction strips and array work, however today I felt the power of clocks in developing equivalencies.  I have taught this lesson in previous years and to be completely honest, never really liked it. It felt contrived, like a pizza divided into slices in another form. This year I have realized it was not the context that was lending itself to the “pizza feel,” it was me.

The class began with a discussion of a blank clock face. I asked the class if the minute hand stayed at 12 and the hour hand moved to the 1, what fraction of the clock did it turn? They said 1/12 and we chatted about how we can prove that, divided it up and went from there. Next I asked if the hands were reversed, would that give us a different fraction? Some said no, some said yes and we talked about the equivalency of 5/60.

The student questions that followed took my appreciation of the clock to another level:

“Is this the same as degrees since it is a circle?”

“Could we do the fraction for a whole day (24 hours)?”

“Can we split the minutes in half to do eighths?”

“What fraction does the clock go at the time we go to lunch?”

Holy cow, how many directions could I take this lesson??  I moved forward with having the students work with partners to find all of the fractions they could represent on the clock.  Then I asked them to use that model to add 1/3 and 1/4 on the clock. It was interesting to see the students who know how to “find common denominators” by multiplying the numerator and denominator by the same number were challenged to make a proof of their equivalencies on the clock face, while the students who needed the clock as a tool had it as their disposal to see that 1/4 is 3/12 and 1/3 is 4/12.  That clock face immediately went from something I saw as just one more pizza, to both a tool and model at the same time in my classroom.

The follow up activity is called Roll Around The Clock (http://tinyurl.com/p8sm7wa). It has fantastic variations to the game and I have student work on the positive/negative scoring system that I will post soon, it was the perfect extension for the students who needed it!

So today, in just a fraction of time, I found a new appreciation for the analog clock and hopefully improved my practice by a fraction!


5 thoughts on “A Fraction of our Time in Math Class…

  1. Christopher

    Lovely stuff. If you have an iPad and 99¢, you absolutely must get yourself “Math Doodles” and play the clock game that’s in it. You will fall in love with clock fractions all over again. Seriously. I’ll repay the 99¢ when we meet in person someday.


  2. Pingback: A Fraction of our Time in Math Class… | Math Education Concepts

  3. Pingback: Fractions and Dyscalculia - Dyscalculia Headlines

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