Grade 3
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When Students Ask

Addition and Subtraction of Fractions

  • Why should I bother learning this? This is an excellent opportunity to generate a class discussion about the fact that not all numbers are whole numbers. Too often, children are under the assumption that numbers in the real world are always whole numbers. Use this opportunity to talk about things such as cooking that can involve the addition of fractions. Another example is distances such as tenths of a mile.

  • Why don't you add the denominators when adding and subtracting fractions? When students ask this type of question, be sure to use a manipulative that demonstrates the fact that when adding fourths, you will get fourths. Have your students use paper fraction kits to model this operation.

  • Should I write the fraction one-half as 1/2 or ? It is likely that students will see both written variations in their educational careers. Although 1/2 is commonly accepted, usually generates much less confusion for children. When students see 1/2 + 5, they may be tempted to add the 2 + 5 first. Do your best to be consistent to cause the least amount of confusion for your students. It is a good idea to let them know that they may encounter both variations later in their mathematical endeavors.

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