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Using Lego to Teach About Fractions
Fractions have always been a “must-learn” subject for KS2 pupils. But to help children understand the concept of fractions, teachers may have hard times connecting the terminologies into the real world. So today I’m going to introduce some good ways of teaching fractions, including using tools such as Lego to deliver your classes.
What are Fractions?
In mathematics, a fraction is a number that represents a part of a whole.
There are two parts in a fraction unit: a numerator and a denominator. The numerator represents the number of equal parts of a whole, while the denominator is the total number of parts that make up said whole.
Elements of Fractions
The numerator is the top number in a fraction. Numerators indicate the number of equal parts that are form the fraction.
The “denominator” is the number at the bottom of a fraction. Denominators indicate the number of equal parts into which the fraction is divided.
The National Curriculum
Below are the highlights as to where fractions appears in the National Curriculum
Children will learn about halving numbers. The main focus will be around 0-20, but they can also learn to divide some special large numbers such as 50 as the half of 100. Also, they are expected to learn to find quarters of shapes or sets of objects. We will discuss some outstanding ways of getting this goal satisfied later.
Pupils will continue learning about halves and quarters. Meanwhile, they are expected to learn about telling the time on an analogue clock as they will be asked to tell the time to the nearest quarter past/to and half past/to the hour.
By the end of Year 2, children should be able to tell what a half or a quarter is of any even numbers between 0 to 20, as well as colouring in a half or a quarter of a shape.
Year 3 & 4:
Children start to learn about more difficult fractions for example thirds and fifths. Practicing writing fractions out in the correct format would be more important, and they will need to be able to find fractions of amounts, for example: 1/5 of 15, 1/3 of 18, etc.
Also starting from year 3, children learn about equivalence. Knowing that 1/3 is the same as 3/9, or 2/4 is the same as 1/2. At the beginning, they can start to understand equivalence with the help of diagrams, but recognising equivalent fractions without pictorial representation is soon needed.
Year 5 & 6:
Pupils will need to learn relating fractions to decimals and percentages. Explain to them that 1/2 is the same with 50/100, and in decimal form it would be 0.5. You can also encourage them to figure out 1/4 and 25/100 or 0.25.
Lego bricks are now a “must-have” resource for schools all over the world. Lego is no longer just some pieces of toys; they can be used in demonstrating complicated abstract ideas or illustrating numeral and logical connections. In a few words, Lego is now becoming a teaching tool.
Let’s say that you are trying to teach your students to find a quarter of a number of objects, for example 1/4 of 16, it’s actually a good idea to get them to count out 16 objects and then divide them into four equal groups. And in this case, Lego bricks are very helpful.
You can also help them learn by letting them divide a set of bricks. For example, give them a big brick made up by 7 attached smaller bricks, and asking them to divide it into sevenths. Now give them a fraction such as: 4/7. Ask them to build up to this fraction with Lego bricks.
There are many other activities that you can do with Lego bricks in teaching fractions, and we’ve got more examples for you.
Basic Addition and Subtraction of Fractions
Lego is great for activities that reinforce basic addition and subtraction (so is Fractions with Emile of course) because pupils can combine pieces together and make a bigger brick (addition) or breaking down a bigger brick into small pieces (subtraction). Indeed, this can be a good activity to help with understanding the relationship between addition and subtraction.
Of course, talking in terms of fractions, this activity is great to get a grounding in adding and subtracting fractions with the same denominator.
For example if I give a student 4 blocks and take 1 block away, then they have 3 of 4 pieces and I have 1 of 4 pieces.
Combine LEGO bricks to form a 6 by 8 block in four different ways (see below).
Ask pupils to find a whole, halves, thirds, quarters, sixths or even eighths.
Suggest that the bricks don’t need to be touching to form a half for those working at Greater Depth.
Encourage students to find out more combinations of making small pieces into a whole big one, and challenge them to come up with more combinations by increase the size of the “whole”, and see who can use the most number of bricks.
Match the correct number.
Make some cards with different fractions on them, and ask your pupils to display the number with Lego bricks of different colours. For example, if the card says 3/4, it is asking the students to use three bricks in the same colour, and one brick of another colour.
Lego of luck.
Prepare some Lego bricks in all kinds of colours and a dice. Put children in groups of two. Each child rolls the dice twice; the smaller number rolled will be the numerator, and the larger number will be the denominator. Then ask pupils to use Lego bricks to create that fraction using two different colours.
For example, if a child rolled a 4 and a 1, the fraction is going to be 1/4 and he or she can build it with 1 red brick and 3 yellow bricks (a total of 4 bricks). .
Let’s use the example of adding 1/6 and 2/6.
– Take a thin board piece of Lego (a base) bigger than 4 by 3. (This is just to keep all the pieces together).
– Place two 2 by 3 bricks onto this board. (Each piece has six stubs)
– Place a 1 by 1 brick on top of one 2 by 3 brick (this brick is covering 1/6 of the 2 by 3 brick)
– Place a 2 by 1 brick on top of one 2 by 3 brick (this brick is covering 2/6 of the 2 by 3 brick)
– Students should be able to see that adding the 2 by 1 brick to the same 2 by 3 brick as the 1 by 1 brick, by moving the brick, that 3 of the 6 stubs are covered.
– Hence 1/6 add 2/6 is 3/6