Resources mentioned in this episode:

Register for Graham’s Foundation of Fractions course

Teaching Fractions and Ratios For Understanding by Susan J. Lamon

Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 9 where we take a look at teaching fractions for understanding.

I know you are probably getting sick of all these fraction podcasts, so today’s episode is the last one about fractions…for awhile. The insight today comes from the book Teaching Fractions and Ratios For Understanding by Susan J. Lamon.

On page 128 of the 2nd edition of the book Susan writes:

“Most of the time when I see children struggling in part-whole instruction it is because instruction has been playing upon children’s weaknesses, rather than building upon their strengths. Many of the so-called misconceptions and problems that have been identified are a result of the fact that adults expect artistic talent or hand-eye coordination that simply isn’t there in all third and fourth graders. There is considerable instructional time spent trying to fix these problems, which, in a year or so, would fix themselves. ”

She goes on to give the example of having kids draw a representation to help them compare ⅞ and 8/9. Kids spend more time measuring to get eighths and ninths correct instead of attending to the fraction concepts.

She goes on to say (p.129):

“Always have students use the simplest drawing. If partitioning a cake into thirds or sixths, use a rectangular cake. Provide strips that are already partitioned, so that students have some landmarks as they partition continuous objects…Do everything possible to focus on the big ideas and not to get waylaid by details that can be more easily addressed when the children are older.”

Today, I’d like you to reflect upon the time spent during fraction instruction. How much of it is spent helping kids just draw and partition? How much of it is spent on helping them understand the big ideas about fractions?

And I’ll just leave you with your thoughts. Only you can decide what the right amount of time is based upon the group of students you have right now.

If you’d like to learn more about creating fraction instruction that focuses on the big ideas, then check out the book Teaching Fractions and Ratios For Understanding by Susan J. Lamon. Or you can also join me and my friend Graham Fletcher for an online PD course called Foundation of Fractions. We only open this course once a year and right now registration is open but only through May 20. I’ll drop a link to the course and to Susan’s book over on the show notes at

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.