## Monday, April 25, 2011

### Writing to Learn: Fractions

Headline:  3 out of 2 people don't understand fractions.

Journal entries, student-illustrated definitions and open-ended problems help students use writing to learn fractional concepts and terms. Students should be encouraged to draw pictures to illustrate fraction concepts or to solve problems.

These are some sample writing prompts to probe student understanding of fractions:
• Explain what the numerator and denominator of a fraction tell you. Give 2-3 different examples that include numbers, pictures and words.
• Is 1/4 or 1/8 larger? Use words, pictures and numbers to explain your thinking to someone who doesn't understand. Can you write a general rule that helps you decide quickly?
• John says that 1/100 is the smallest fraction. Do you agree or disagree? Use words, pictures and numbers to support your position.
• Is 7/8 or 9/10 closer to 1? Use words, pictures and numbers to explain your thinking to someone who doesn't understand. Can you write a general rule that helps you decide quickly?
• Sort the fraction cards into groups of close to 0, close to 1/2 or close to 1. What strategies did you use to quickly sort the cards into these groups? Which fractions were harder to place? Why?
Teachers might elect to use the Think-Pair-Write-Share strategy with these prompts.
• Think:  Ask students the question, then provide some quiet think time for students to grapple with the concept and organize their thinking, perhaps selecting an appropriate fraction model to explain their thinking.
• Pair:  After a few minutes, student pairs discuss their thinking.  This is especially beneficial for the reluctant writer as they often find it easier to "talk" a solution.  Students also benefit from hearing different approaches to the problem, adding to their repertoire of strategies they have available for future tasks.
• Write:  Each student writes (words, pictures, numbers) to explain their thinking in response to the prompt.
• Share:  Teachers use a variety of strategies for this sharing session.  Sometimes teachers select students to represent the different ways of thinking about the prompt, asking those students to read their responses aloud.  Other times, teachers might circulate around the room as small groups discuss their responses.