Learning Fractions

Written by Tara Peris
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Learning fractions is a task that seems to stump many children. Even those who progress seamlessly through other early math material can find fractions to be conceptually challenging. The recent controversy in schools regarding appropriate teaching strategies suggests that this difficulty may stem in part, from the approach employed by teachers.

There are several competing approaches to teaching mathematics. One method that has sparked controversy in recent years has been dubbed "the spiral curriculum." Within this teaching framework, children are introduced to many mathematical concepts at once, but are not expected to master them until later.

Trouble Learning Fractions

Children who are taught using a spiral curriculum will be exposed to fractions while simultaneously learning basic addition and subtraction. The idea is that the curriculum will circle back to these advanced concepts from time to time, gradually building comprehension. Advocates of traditional teaching methods suggest that this makes learning fractions near impossible.

They argue that children are likely to feel frustrated and overwhelmed by being exposed to material they never fully master. This in turn, can make learning fractions a negative experience. As each child is unique, and different strategies are likely to work for different learning styles, it is important to match the teaching approach to the child, and to keep tasks manageable at all times.

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