Vol. 20 No. 1
Center for Alternative Learning
Serving Adults and Children Who Learn Differently
Fractions cause a lot of problems for individuals who have weak math skills. For many individuals who have learning differences, fractions do not make sense mathematically but make perfect sense in everyday life. Such a person would say, “I need to get half of a tank of gas because I only have a half of a tank left in my car.” But this same person might add ½ + ½ and answer 2/4 seeing no relationship between the two quantitative concepts.
Part of the problem with fractions involves
learning at a very early age that the numbers we count represent larger
quantities (1, 2, 3 etc.). However,
fractions do not follow this pattern, the quantities represented by the
denominator get smaller as the numbers get larger
(½, ¼, 1/3). To add to the confusion, the number on the top (the
numerator) follows the original pattern as the numerator gets larger the
quantities get larger as they increase.
(1/8, 3/8, 5/8). To
further add to this confusion is the ordinary math concept that 2/8, 4/8
and 6/8 are missing in the sequence of eighths.
Instead of following a predictable pattern of increasing numbers
on the top, the quantities that are represented by numbers on the bottom
get smaller, (1/4, ½). For
some individuals who think and learn differently, this is so confusing
that they become frustrated and turn off and avoid any numbers that are
written as fractions.
One way to assist individuals who are confused by the numbers of fractions is to teach them that fractions, decimals and percentages are different ways of expressing the same quantity and that they can learn to easily change fractions into decimals and decimals into percentages. When a person, who is confused by fractions, is able to see a quantity represented as a decimal (relating it to money) or a percentage (relating it to 1 to 100 parts of a whole), the person is better able to understand the quantity of a fraction. One way to assist a person to see a fraction as a decimal is to use the mnemonic of the swimming pool and the other way is to have the person learn the patterns in decimal equivalents of fractions. The following is the swimming pool mnemonic. The pattern of eighths and sixteenths take up too much space so I have placed it on our web site: www.learningdifferences.com. If you do not have access to the Internet, contact us and we will send you a paper copy.
|If you understand fractions and found this explanation confusing, imagine the confusion of the individuals who do not understand fractions|