assess prior knowledge, ask students to create a list of ways they use
fractions in their daily lives. Engage them in a discussion of
nonstandard ways they use fractions daily. Some simple examples include
dividing a treat in half (1/2) to share it with a friend, or noticing
that your brother ate 3/8 of a pizza last night at dinner.
Some students may suggest that they fold or use a ruler to
measure lengths to determine fractional parts. If students suggest such
strategies, you might use this as an introduction to the lesson using
To begin the lesson, give students six strips of paper in six
different colors. Specify one color and have students hold up the strip
of this color. Tell students that this strip will represent the whole.
Have students write "one whole" on the fraction strip. The term whole is included in the labeling instead of 1 because it eliminates confusion between the numeral 1 in fractions such as 1/2.
Next, ask students to pick a second strip, fold it, and cut it into
two equal pieces. (Note that students may prefer to highlight the fold
marks, rather than physically cutting the individual fraction pieces.)
Ask them what they think each of these strips should be called
["one‑half" or 1/2]. Have students label their strips accordingly using
both the word and the fractional representation.
Have students take out another strip, fold it twice, and
divide it into four congruent pieces. Ask them what they think each of
these strips should be called ["one‑fourth" or 1/4]. Have students
label their strips using both the word and the fractional
representation. Repeat this process of folding, cutting, and naming
strips for eighths, thirds, and sixths.
Have students take out their "whole" and ask, "Which strip
is 1/2 of the whole?" Then ask, "Which strip is 1/4 of the whole?" Ask
similar questions about 1/8, 1/3, and 1/6. Students should experiment
with the strips until they are consistently arriving at the correct
Have students work in pairs to line up their fraction strips
and find as many relationships as they can. For instance, they might
notice that three of the 1/6 pieces are equal to four of
the 1/2 pieces, or that two of the 1/3 pieces are equal to four of
the 1/6 pieces. Have students record these relationships on paper. When
they have finished, have them share the relationships they discovered.
Record relationships on chart paper and discuss.
Students will notice that one whole is the same as 2/2, 4/4, 8/8,
3/3, or 6/6. Another example includes the relationship between 1/2,
2/4, 4/8, and 3/6. Tell students that when fraction strips are the same
length, they represent equivalent fractions. Students may also notice
that for each of these fractions, the numerator is 1/2 of the
denominator. Record this relationship.
Have students create a virtual set of fraction strips using the Fraction Bars Applet.
Instructions for using the virtual fraction strips should be reviewed
ahead of time. Students will have to be guided in clicking on the "Add
Bar" and then breaking the bar into various pieces or fractions.
Have students explore fraction relationships using the virtual
fraction strips. Relationships should be noted in written reflections.
When all students have completed recording fraction relationships using
the applet, discuss relationships as a class. Record any additional
relationships on chart paper for future reference.