A huge chunk of the 3rd Nine Weeks for my fourth graders is dedicated to fractions. We eased into this unit by using manipulatives and drawing to explain what a fraction is and then we practiced naming fractions. Then we added and subtracted fractions with like denominators (which my kids said was so easy!). Today it was time to dive into the more complex concepts- key scary music- simplest form!!! I know you are all hiding under your covers now much like I wanted to do this morning.
Every year my students have struggled with simplest form and I finally realized I was putting it all on them in one huge heap of math nonsense! Factoring, greatest common factor, dividing oh my! So today I tried a new approach- breaking it down into small pieces. Today we talked about what a factor is and how we factor. I showed them some examples and then we factored some numbers as a class. Once my kids got the hang of it, we had a factor competition. The kids loved it and it did not take a lot of time. My kids already sit in groups so we had our teams. I put a number on the board and they had to work together to find all the factors of said number. When they thought they had them all, they would raise their hands. I would come to them and tell them if they had them all or if they needed to find more. The team that got all factors first was the winner of that round. My kids were so into it they even forgot who won and to ask me about prizes.
After factoring for a bit, I started putting two numbers on the board and we would factor both. Then we would circle the factors they had in common. Next step we added was finding the greatest common factor or gcf as we call it. The last thing we did was talk about how we would use this with fractions. They saw the pieces come together in the end! I am hopeful that by slowing down and taking the time to focus on the factoring my kids will be more successful with this skill this year. Keep your fingers crossed!!