Fractions on a number line can be one of the trickiest concepts for students to catch on to.
There are many simple ways they 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 in order for students to be successful with this skill.
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.)
Make sure your students understand that they don’t count the lines
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are You a Visual Learner?
Watch this video replay of our Fractions on a Number Line workshop to learn more about all the steps I mentioned above!