As my own memories of learning in a traditional classroom and my current discussions with parents of school-age children confirm, learning about fractions is one of the most confusing and frustrating learning experiences for traditionally educated elementary-age students (and their parents).
|Laura’s daughter Abby (age 6) applies the fraction knowledge she has built with Montessori materials to her dreidel game. After winning half the pot, she is separating the candies into two piles to see how many she gets to keep|
A Teacher’s Reflection on the Benefits of Building Fraction Knowledge with Montessori Materials and Methods
Students learning about fractions using materials such as the Fraction Circles, Fraction Circle Box, and the green skittles benefit greatly from the concrete, consistent, and gradual nature of the Montessori approach. Instead of simply using drawings representing fractional parts, Montessori students are able to feel (as well as see) fractions like 1/10, 2/5, and 3/4 and can use these inviting materials to discover for themselves concepts such as equivalent fractions.
In addition, the same materials (Fraction Circles and Fraction Circle Box and even the green skittles from the teaching of division with whole numbers) and terms (describing denominators as “families” and “sharing equally” for division) are used to explore many different concepts. This allows students to focus on the new concept at hand while understanding how each new concept relates to those that have preceded it. For instance, the Montessori student learning to divide fractions by whole numbers will not see this as a completely foreign and daunting task because both the materials and the terminology used will remind her of learning to divide whole numbers by whole numbers.
Overall, the Montessori approach to learning fractions should prevent students from “hating” fractions by ensuring that they are only asked to do what they are developmentally ready to do and by making learning about fractions easy and fun through the use of consistent materials and focused, individual lessons.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.