I’ve been interested in creating fractions projects for kids exactly as long as I’ve been working with children in schools (decades). This year, after enjoying,messing around with a hexagon/golden ratio project I wondered if I could modify the idea of using scaled hexagons to help fourth graders make better sense of fractions. My first attempt at this didn’t work out so well.
I gave students hexagons that were scaled to 1, one-half, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, an eighth, a tenth, and twelfths. The task was to pair and arrange them so they would span the length of a whole, aka 100% across.
The project went okay, but it just didn’t snap for me.
I’ve been thinking about how to improve this project. Today I had a chance to work with a small group of kids. I tried a new approach that worked so much better. What was especially great was that it included making a simple book. Yay!
I started kids off with a hexagon that was labeled 1/2. I explained about how the lengths we would be looking at would be the horizontal or vertical length of the hexagon (I didn’t use these words, rather gestured what I meant). Then we layered the hexagon with equivalencies. Here you can see two 1/12ths equals 1/6, three 1/6ths equals 1/2, and 1/6th and two 1/12ths equals 1/3.
Nice, right? Snap!
The books we made were just two sheets of paper folded in half, bound with yarn using a modified pamphlet stitch.
What’s great about using hexagons for this project is that you can still see the labels of the lower layers as the equivalencies are built up. The adults in the room had a bit of trouble with accepting that the hexagons were scaled (similar) versions of each other, but the kids had no problem with it. This reinforces my notion that children have a better intuitive understanding of scale than do adults.
This is the way I explain the scaling to adults: We all know what half a candy bar looks like. That’s one way of thinking of one-half. But when we say a child is half the size of the parent, we don’t envision the child to be half a parent, like they were half a candy bar. Instead, we envision them smaller than the parent in their height as well as width. This explanation seems to work.
After doing a bunch of equivalencies, this child decided to nest her fractions.
Okay then. Here, what’s obvious is the hierarchy of the hexagons that are scaled by fractions. Nice!
This project can use a bit more refinement, but this is as far as I’m going with it right now.
I’m including PDF of the hexagons. The labeling includes the colors of the paper I use for printing. Yeah, it’s lots of files. Welcome to my life.