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"BOO" to Fractions?


Here is a Halloween riddle: Which building does Dracula like to visit in New York City? Give up? It's the Vampire State Building!! (Ha! Ha!) Here is another riddle. Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the party? He had no body to dance with!   

Okay, so what do these riddles have to do with teaching math? I have been attempting to come up with ways for my students to recognize fractional parts in lowest terms. As you know from this blog, I have used Pattern Sticks, the Divisibility Rules, and finding Digital Root. These are all strategies my students like and use, but to be a good mathematician requires practice - something most of my students dread doing. I can find many "drill and kill" activities, but they tend to do just that, drill those who don't need it and kill those who already know how to do it. So to drill and "thrill", I created six fractional word puzzles for specific times of the year.

The one for October is Halloween Fraction Riddles. It contains eight riddles that the students must discover by correctly identifying fractional parts of words. For instance, my first clue might be: the first 2/3's of WILLOW. The word WILLOW contains six letters. It takes two letters to make 1/3; therefore, the first 2/3's would be the word WILL. This causes the students to group the letters (in this case 4/6), and then to reduce the fraction to lowest terms. The letters are a visual aid for those students who are still having difficulty, and I observe many actually drawing lines between the letters to create groups of two.

At first, I thought my students would breeze through the activities, but to my surprise, they proved to be challenging as well as somewhat tricky - just perfect for a Trick or Treat holiday. Maybe this is an activity you would like to try with your intermediate or middle school students. Just click on this link: Halloween Fraction Riddles.

A Go Figure Debut for Part of a Trio Who Is New!

Today’s blog post features Sarah who retired last year after 33 years of teaching. Her Teachers Pay Teachers store is called Stem to Steam Trio.

Sarah taught special education, second grade and enrichment through STEM K-4! She enjoyed having the variety! She feels she has always been good at differentiating lessons, and she loves activities that are hands-on and engaging! Her husband (middle school STEM) and her sister (elementary art) are also teachers. They enjoy bouncing ideas off each other; thus the STEM to STEAM Trio was born.

Her family has a woodworking business called Anniversary Banks (anniversarybanks.com). She and her husband have a rather nice woodworking shop where they enjoy creating. Sarah also enjoys walking, gardening, reading, and traveling. And this year, she has even taken up golf! Of course playing with their dog, Snickers, and taking her for walks ranks up there! Now that she is home, Snickers follows her around like Mary's little lamb!
Only $4.00

Sarah finds making resources for TPT is a way to keep the creative juices flowing, while at the same time helping other teachers. There are 227 resources in their store, the majority being science and STEM related. One of these is a great science WebQuest. WebQuest activities challenge students to go on-line (usually to a specific website) to find answers to specific questions. The featured WebQuest about wild turkeys is entitled Wild Turkeys WebQuest. Students use some of the knowledge they have gained while completing the WebQuest to imagine, plan and create a turkey that balances on a branch. This STEM challenge is aligned to the Next Generation Science standards of engineering and design and includes worksheets guiding the student to locate certain information from the website along with specific instructions for the challenge. Materials for the challenge are things most teachers have.

Free Item
Out of the 227 resources, six are free. The freebie featured today is an award sampler. It contains three colorful awards that target 21st Century Skills! They are sure to make students of any age smile! They can be used at an end of the year celebration or given out sporadically throughout the year to reward and encourage students!

In addition, Sarah is a collaborator on the collaborative blog called Stem Activities for Kids. There you will find posts on STEM, science, technology, engineering and math. There are even STEM activities for little learners. This is one blog that you ought to take the time to visit!

Dump and Divide or Better Known As Converting Fractions to Decimals

When working with fractions, my remedial math college students are never quite sure which number to divide by. This same thing often occurred when I taught middle school and high school. So the question I had to answer was, "How can I help my students remember what number goes where?"


First, the student must understand and know the vocabulary for the three parts of a division problem. As seen in the problem above, each part is correctly named and identified.

Side Note: The symbol separating the dividend from the divisor in a long division problem is a straight vertical bar with an attached vinculum (you might have to look this word up) extending to the left, but it seems to have no established name of its own. Therefore, it can simply be called the "long division symbol" or the division bracket. I wish it were named something fancier, but sometimes plain and straight forward is the best!
Now let's look at a fraction that the student is asked to rewrite as a decimal. The fraction on your right is two-fifths and is read from top to bottom as two divided by five. That's easy enough, but when my students enter this into their calculators, many will put in the 5 first, and then press the
division sign, followed by the 2. Of course, they get the wrong answer. Now let's look at the dump and divide method.

First, dump the 2 into the calculator. Then press the division sign; then divide by 5. The answer is 0.4.

I am aware that many of students are not allowed to use calculators; so, let's look at how this method would work using the division bracket. We will use the same fraction of 2/5 and the same phrase, dump and divide.

First, take the numerator and dump it inside the division bracket. (Note: Use N side instead of inside so that numerator and N side both start with "N".) Now place the 5 outside of the long division bracket and divide. The answer is still .4.

Dump and Divide will also work when a division problem is written horizontally as a number sentence such as: 15 ÷ 3. First, reading left to right, dump 15 into the division bracket. Now place the 3 on the outside. Ask, "How many groups of three are in 15?" The answer is 5.

Try using Dump and Divide with your students, and then let me know how it works. You can e-mail by clicking on the page entitled Contact Me or just leave a comment.

Something Else to Think About:  Since many students do not know
their multiplication tables, reducing fractions is almost an
Divisibility Rules
impossible task. The divisibility rules, if learned and understood, can be an excellent math tool. The resource, Using Digital Root to Reduce Fractions, contains four easy to understand divisibility rules as well as the digital root rules for 3, 6, and 9. A clarification of what digital root is and how to find it is explained. Also contained in the resource is a dividing check off list for the student. Download the preview to view the first divisibility rule plus three samples from the student check off list.