Equivalent fractions can be
a difficult concept for kids to truly visualize and understand. We can teach them to multiply the numerator
and denominator by the same number, but they may not fully understand WHY that trick
works. Fortunately, there are some very
fun ways to help your students understand this concept more deeply, so they can
apply it and use it more flexibly later on.

Folding (or cutting) is one
of the most concrete ways for students to visualize how equivalent fractions
work.

Here’s an example:

1.
Take a piece of paper.

2.
Fold it in half.

3.
Color one half and leave
the other half blank.

4.
Fold it back in half.

5.
NOW, fold it AGAIN, to make
fourths.

6.
Open it up! Voila!
Now it’s clear that the same ½ that was colored is now actually 2 parts
(because of the new fold). BUT, where
there used to only be 2 total pieces, there are now FOUR.

This process makes it
easier for kids to see the doubling that is happening when we make equivalent
fractions. The numerator (shaded
part) is being doubled by folding the paper in half. AND, the denominator
(totally pieces) is ALSO being doubled by folding the paper in half. So ½ will become 2/4 because both the top
and bottom are doubled. And we didn’t
change the are that was shaded, so we know the two fractions are equivalent!

PRO tip: Have the students
write an equation to match each folding that they do. For the above example, one equation could be: 1/2 x 2/2 = 2/4.

This exercise can be
repeated over and over until students start to see the how the equivalent
fractions are related. They can even
refold papers that are already folded or fold papers in a sequence to make a
string of equivalent fractions. Start
with doubling (folding in half), then move on to tripling or quadrupling. Have different students work with different
sized papers to help them generalize their understandings for different size
wholes.

For ready-made, guided
discovery folding equivalent fractions lessons, check out my best-selling Third Grade Fraction unit.

Happy (equivalent fractions) Teaching!

Christine Cadalzo