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Tips for Teaching Fractions on a Number Line in 3rd Grade

Teaching fractions on a number line in 3rd grade can be one of the trickiest concepts you cover this year.

There are many simple ways students can make errors, so there are some important things to keep in mind when you are teaching this standard.  

In this blog post, I’ll go over several different concepts that need to be taught for students to be successful with fractions on a number line in 3rd grade.

Be sure to stick through til the end! I’ve got a free game for you!

Step 1: Make sure your students know what whole numbers are

When determining the denominator for fractions on a number line, students must look at how many pieces the number line is divided into, between consecutive whole numbers.  

I always teach that finding the consecutive whole numbers is the first step. Before I begin teaching fractions on a number line, I will have spent time with my students making sure they understand what whole numbers are vs. fractions. (We also talk about how to represent a whole number as a fraction.)

finding consecutive whole numbers on a number line is the first step for understanding fractions on a number line in 3rd grade

Step 2: Make sure your students understand that they don’t count the lines on the number line

So many students make the mistake of counting the lines on the number line when they are determining the denominator.  

When I first teach fractions on a number line, I model counting the number of spaces between two consecutive whole numbers.  

teach students not to count the lines on a number line, but to count the space in-between the lines

We never, ever, count lines.

We draw squiggles in the spaces as we count them.

This tells us our denominator.

Only after that do we label the lines.

Step 3: Make sure your students know what to do when there is more than one whole number present

Once your students are a little more comfortable with this process, then it’s time to put two whole numbers on the number line.  

This is something they will likely see on a standardized test at the end of the year, so make sure you teach them to look out for this.

Do your students remember the first step—looking for consecutive whole numbers?  

If not, remind them that they will only be counting the spaces between those, not just the outermost whole number on the number line.

Step 4: Identify Equivalent Fractions

One thing I teach my students to do is to label all equivalent fractions on the number line.  

We talk about what line/fraction would be equivalent to one-half. We look for other fractions that can be simplified.   This helps prepare them for end-of-grade testing!  

I get my students in the habit of doing all of these steps when they have a number line. Only then do we look at specific test questions.

Want to see this in action? Check out our fractions on a number line workshop:

Watch this video replay of our Fractions on a Number Line workshop to learn more about all the steps I mentioned above!

Need more fractions on a number line practice? Grab these 3rd grade task cards.

Looking for comprehensive fraction resources for your grade level? Check out these resources!

Check out this other fun fractions activity:

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