First grade students learn fractions most effectively when lessons are task oriented and incorporate the senses of sound, sight and touch, according to the Common Core State Standards. These types of hands-on activities allow students to associate fractions with their everyday lives and to experience fractions concretely, instead of just as abstract written numbers.
Read "The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear" by Dona and Audrey Wood to your students. Ask about the end of the book, when the mouse cuts the strawberry in half and offers it to the narrator, and ask how this relates to math. When they say that the strawberry is cut in half, write "1/2" on the chalkboard. Then, write the word "fraction." Explain that 1/2 is a fraction, which means a part of a whole or a group. Ask your students where else in their lives they see fractions, and write their ideas on the board as well.
Children commonly see fractions in their everyday lives, most often in relation to food. Give each student a handful of M&Ms and ask each student to remove three M&Ms from their handful and place them on the desk in front of them. Have each student place a finger on one of the three M&Ms. Ask them how many M&Ms they are touching, and how many are in that group. When they answer "one" and "three," write the fraction "1/3" on the chalkboard. Explain that they are touching one out of three M&Ms, and point at each number you wrote as you say it. You can then repeat the process with different fractions of your choosing.
One Half, Half and 1/2
Give every student a cookie, and then tell every student to give half to another student. When each student has two halves, ask the class how many halves they each have and write the numeral "2" on the chalkboard. Then, ask them how many halves it takes to make a whole cookie. Write a fraction bar beneath the first "2," and then write another "2" below that. Explain that having one cookie equals having two out of two cookie halves. Write "1=" beside your "2/2" fraction. Have them eat one half, and then -- aside from your equation -- write "1/2." Explain that "half," "one half" and "1/2" all mean the same thing: having one of the two pieces that make something whole.
Split the class into groups, and give each group some Play-do and a plastic knife. Explain that they're going to make pizzas, and instruct each group to shape their Play-do into a circle. Then, have each group cut the pizza in half. Write the fraction "1/2" on the chalkboard and explain that 1/2 means one out of two pieces. Next, instruct each group to slice their pizzas again, but this time to cut at a 90 degree angle to their last cut, so that the cuts form a perfect cross. Ask one student from each group to hold up one slice. Explain that the student is holding one out of four slices, or 1/4, of the pizza.
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