Post #5 in my math series is getting a little more specific regarding curriculum. I always get asked how I teach adding and subtracting fractions. Fractions are challenging for many students who start learning the basics in 2nd grade. By the time they are in 5th, they should know how to add and subtract them because they often begin working on multiplying and dividing fractions. So here is post #5: how to teach adding and subtracting fractions.
Adding And Subtracting Fractions
Yes, adding and subtracting fractions seems straightforward now that you are an adult. Still, when you are a 10-year-old sitting at a desk in your classroom being told to look at the denominators and numerators, it is pretty confusing. Kids seem to understand how to add fractions and subtract fractions with the same denominators. They don’t have to consider the different size parts, common factors, or anything else. But, as soon as you start discussing different denominators, they often look like deer in headlights!
Apples And Oranges
Don’t rush adding and subtracting fractions. Bring some apples and oranges into the classroom and discuss how they are similar in some ways but also very different!
Students often struggle with understanding the need to have common denominators when adding and subtracting fractions, and they just want to subtract or add right across. Once you discuss the apples and oranges, show pictures of two different pizzas cut differently and ask the same types of similarities and differences questions. Finally, move on to fractions.
When subtracting and adding fractions, the first thing students need to understand is unlike denominators need to become common denominators. This may involve finding common multiples and can be challenging for students who do not know their multiplication/division facts too!
Creating an addition and subtraction fraction anchor chart for the process is always great.
When adding and subtracting, unlike fractions, students need to know all the steps in the process, and having a visual is often the easiest way to help kids!
Yes, it gets even harder when the math curriculum decides to add in mixed numbers. Depending on what you feel will work for each student, there are a couple of ways to teach it. Some will want to turn the mixed numbers into improper fractions and then add or subtract. They may have to change it into a mixed number or at least simplify it (a whole other skill!). Others will want to keep the mixed number and add or subtract the whole numbers, figure out the fraction subtraction or addition sentence, and then put it all together.
Take your time with teaching these steps. When you have mixed numbers where the students can’t easily subtract, where regrouping is involved, it can become challenging for students who choose to keep the mixed numbers as they are!
Slow And Steady
The biggest piece of advice I always give when teaching adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers is to take your time. Allow your students the time to really remember the steps, and don’t rush through them. It’s important because when they get to multiplying and dividing fractions, it’s a whole new ballgame and the rules change entirely, and I can guarantee your students will not be very happy! But, if you take your time and allow students the time they need to understand the concept, you will have better results.
If you are familiar with my blog posts, you probably already know I always recommend hands-on activities and games. They are simple to implement into your centers or small group math or to use as a review before a quiz or test.
It’s always best to try and make them simple enough for students to quickly comprehend, and you won’t need to oversee every second of the game. I love my math review puzzles, and I specifically made a set for adding and subtracting fractions because of just how difficult it often is for students to comprehend. You can download a free example of my math puzzles below!
You will get various games in my adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators math bundle. This means students won’t get bored of a particular game because there will be a ton to choose from.
- Spin and Answer Games
- Word Problem Board Game
- Leveled Problems
- And More!
If you can’t find an adding and subtracting fractions game in this bundle your students enjoy, I don’t know what to tell ya!
Haha, totally kidding, but I promise they will like them!
Adding And Subtracting Fractions
So now you have the how to add and subtract fractions low down. I think you may be able to feel a little more comfortable when it comes to adding and subtracting fractions with your students. You are going to be ready to rock and roll!
Want to take a look at my other math series posts?