Math Background

Fractions and Probability: Overview

Children should have opportunities to handle shapes and parts of shapes before they begin to explore fractions. Provide hands-on activities that focus on shapes with matching parts and shapes with nonmatching parts. Explore symmetrical shapes and objects in your classroom.

Be aware that children with perceptual or visual-organization problems will need extra guidance when working with symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes and fractions. If children have kinesthetic needs, then connecting cubes, colored rods, and pattern blocks will be helpful to reinforce concepts about fractions.

Although many children are familiar with the terms half and one half, they may not have a good understanding of the term equal parts. Paper strips can help children to understand that a fraction, such as one half, is part of a whole. Have children fold paper strips so that both ends meet. Ask children to show that both parts are exactly the same size. Point out that two parts make up the whole strip of paper. Then introduce the term one half. After children have experiences identifying halves, repeat the activity with thirds and fourths.

strip of paper with dotted line through middle

In daily life, children make judgments based on uncertain information: Will it snow? Who will win the football game? Who will be first in line? These judgments lay the foundation for the idea of probability—the likelihood that a certain event will happen. If a child says that it will probably snow, how does he or she arrive at this conclusion? One reason that the concept of probability is introduced is to have children explore how to calculate the likelihood that a certain event will occur. Exploring concepts of probability helps the child interpret judgments when there is uncertainty. Children begin to understand that some problems involving uncertainty can be analyzed mathematically.


Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 1