# Fractions Part 6: Adding and Subtracting Fractions

Starting in 3rd grade, students start building understanding about adding and subtracting fractions by composing and decomposing simple fractions using concrete and visual models. Composing: 1/4 and 3/4 combine to make 4/4 (whole). Decomposing: 8/8 is made up of 2/8 and 6/8. In fourth grade, students begin to add and subtract fractions with like denominators, but should still be utilizing models, drawings, and number lines to illustrate and simplify. In fifth grade, students are expected to add and subtract fractions of all types (proper, improper, with unlike denominators, etc.).

With a firm foundation of composing and decomposing, partitioning, comparing, naming equivalent fractions, and understanding the relationship between certain fractions (such as halves / fourths / eighths / sixteenths; and thirds / ninths / sixths / twelfths; or fifths / tenths), then students are more prepared to perform operations with fractions. Here’s a great resource by Donna Boucher at Math Coach’s Corner: Composing and Decomposing Fractions activity on TPT (\$6)

Estimating: This is an important part of operations with fractions. Do you expect your answer to be less than 1/2, more than 1/2, more than 1? How do you know? If I was adding 8/9 + 11/12, my answer should be about _____? It should be slightly less than 2 because both of these fractions are almost 1.

If I am adding 4/6 and 6/8, my answer should be more than 1 because each of these fractions are greater than 1/2.

Different strategies: There are many “tricks” or shortcuts available to show students how to quickly add, subtract, or multiply fractions. I believe these shortcuts are only useful after a students has a strong understanding of why and how to find a common denominator and equivalent fraction. These shortcuts do not help build conceptual understanding of fractions.  I will focus on ways to understand the why using visual and pictorial models. Get your FREE copy of the following guides by clicking HERE. Continue reading

# Fractions Part 5: Equivalent Fractions

This is part 5 of a series of fractions posts. Thanks for sticking around! Through explorations with fraction manipulatives, pictures, and drawings, we hope students begin to notice there may be different ways to express the same area using fractional terms. To cut a sandwich into halves and eat one of the halves is the same as cutting the same sandwich into fourths and eating two of the fourths. Read on for several freebies about equivalent fractions.

Students can gain experience finding equivalent fractions using models in several ways: Fraction strips, area models, set models, bar / length models, and number lines. Then with a strong understanding using concrete and pictorial models, the student is ready to apply paper-pencil methods to name equivalent fractions. But remember to use the same size whole: As in this picture using pattern blocks, 2/3 of a trapezoid is NOT the same as 2/3 of a hexagon. Fraction Strips: If you don’t have sets of fraction strips, here is a free resource Fraction, decimal and percent strips charts via Kim Tran (TPT).  Commercially available strips are also nice. But, with some 1″ strips of construction paper, students can create their own and probably learn a lot about the relationship between halves, fourths, and eighths as well as thirds, sixths, and twelfths in the process of partitioning and cutting them.

TIP:  Make sure students know how to read a fraction strip chart. A couple of years ago I was working with a third grade class and assumed they could readily see that 5/10 was equivalent to 1/2. But after confusing looks, I realized that I needed to physically show them how to follow a line vertically down the chart to find other fractions that were in line (by placing a ruler or long pencil along the vertical line). Another example.  “To find another fraction equivalent to 1/3, find the line at the end of the 1/3 section and trace it vertically down the page to see if there are other fractions that stop along that same line. You should see in the sixth’s line that 2/6 lines up, and in the ninth’s line that 3/9 lines up and in the twelfths line that 4/12 lines up.”

After cutting and labeling strips, then explore equivalent fractions (those with the same size length). Students should be able to generalize that different fractions can used to represent the same area. Area models:  By covering or partitioning shapes, students should notice that even though the same area is covered or shaded,  the number and size of the parts can change. Continue reading