Mandy Gregory is a 2007 and 2012 Teacher of the Year. She has taught 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grade in both the general education and inclusion setting. She is the owner and creator of the Teaching Tips website (www.mandygregory.com) and has over 10 years of experience. She is married with two beautiful children.
I am not sure about you, but there are always a few things I love teaching…and a few things that I dread. Well, measurement takes the cake, because it makes me want to stab my eyes out. With a dull pencil.
In my district students have to be able to measure to the nearest quarter inch and also do simple conversions (usually when given a chart). The conversions are not fun, but do-able. The quarter inch- ughh. It is always blank stares and crickets when I try to explain that we label the ruler dashes 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, whole. That whole 1/2 thing really throws them off- they have only seen fractions with LIKE denominators first of all AND then when they write the answer they are writing in mixed numbers- for the first time EVER.
This year I got smart- we introduced mixed numbers (VERY basically) when we taught our fraction unit (which we taught right BEFORE measurement- one year we did measurement and THEN fractions. I still have nightmares). I took a week in between fractions and measurement to do prep work in small groups.
I introduced the unit fraction.
I had students make a 2 by 2 array with different colors using the one inch tiles. Then I gave the students 1 inch grid paper and had them color in the tiles and cut out the square. I had them make TWO. We then talked about what fraction each color tile was of the whole. Kids understood that each color was 1/4 of the whole. Score. Then I cut out my tiles and modeled laying out the tiles as rectangular shape (leading to a number line). We discussed how each color was still 1/4 of the rectangular shape and we labeled each block as 1/4. Then we discussed that the yellow AND green square was 2/4 of the whole and we labeled this. Then we discussed how the green, yellow and blue squares were 3/4 of the whole and we labeled. No blank stares. The crickets had hopped away and they got it.
Then I had my real money making unit when I laid the smaller paper clip (about an inch) above the green tile and asked the students how long it was. The all said 1/4. Then I laid it about the yellow square and they said it was STILL ¼. Then I laid it above the blue square and they said it was STILL ¼ because it didn’t matter where I put it, its’ length didn’t change and that each block was worth ¼ (how many of you have seen that crazy question in which an object is laid above the ruler BUT it does not start at 0? Who doesn’t start at 0? It is the FRIST thing we teach kids- BUT there is a question like that every year!).
Do ya see what I did, do ya? I introduced a number line with fractions using manipulatives that leads to an inch broken into quarters! Whoot whoot! And they GOT it. Next up: getting kids to understand different ways to represent 1/2 (which will lead to that pesky 2/4 issue).