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Practice Guide iconPractice Guide
Released: September 2010
PDF (6.0 MB)
This practice guide presents five recommendations intended to help educators improve students’ understanding of fractions. Recommendations include strategies to develop young children’s understanding of early fraction concepts and ideas for helping older children understand the meaning of fractions and the computations involved. The guide also highlights ways to build on students’ existing strategies to solve problems involving ratios, rates, and proportions.
Build on students’ informal understanding of sharing and proportionality to develop initial fraction concepts.
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Help students recognize that fractions are numbers and that they expand the number system beyond whole numbers.
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Help students understand why procedures for computations with fractions make sense.
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Develop students’ conceptual understanding of strategies for solving ratio, rate, and proportion problems before exposing them to cross-multiplication as a procedure to use to solve such problems.
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Professional development programs should place a high priority on improving teachers’ understanding of fractions and of how to teach them.
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Use number lines as a central representational tool in teaching this and other fraction concepts from the early grades onward.

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Transcript PDF (503 KB)
Video (5:40 minutes)
Education Levels:
  • Elementary
  • Middle Grades
  • Administrator
  • Parent/Family
  • Policymaker
  • Researcher
  • School Specialist
  • Student
  • Teacher

This practice guide was prepared for the WWC by Mathematica Policy Research under contract ED-07-CO-0062.

The following research staff contributed to the guide: Jeffrey Max, Moira McCullough, Andrew Gothro, and Sarah Prenovitz.

These videos were prepared by WestEd under the Doing What Works Contract (ED-PEP-11-C-0068).
All videos are based on recommendations from the WWC practice guides and are designed to complement the guides.

  • Robert Siegler (Chair)
    Carnegie Mellon University

    Play an interview of Panel Chair, Robert S. Siegler: The Importance of Fractions Instruction (5:36 minutes)
  • Thomas Carpenter
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Francis (Skip) Fennell
    McDaniel College, Westminster, MD
  • David Geary
    University of Missouri at Columbia
  • James Lewis
    University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Yukari Okamoto
    University of California–Santa Barbara
  • Laurie Thompson
    Elementary Teacher
  • Jonathan Wray
    Howard County (MD) Public Schools

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