Fractions are fun open middle math problems

Kids Do Love Fractions

I’m a troublemaker and have started giving busting out math problems at dinner when I’m over at someone’s house or if my kids bring friends over for dinner. Whoa to you if you say to me “I’m not good at math” or “I don’t like fractions.” OF COURSE YOU ARE GOOD AT MATH! What a shame that people have been lead to feel they are not math people. As Stanford math professor Jo Boaler says “there is no such thing as a math brain.” I have several problems I like to bust out depending on the age of my victims. Recently I have been using this equivalent fractions problem from Open Middle. Open Middle is a website dedicated to DOK 2 and DOK 3 level math problems. Believe it or not, most of the math problems in the textbook are DOK 1. Follow these steps and procedures and get the right answer is really not that much fun to many people. It’s actually something of dread to many.

Equivalent Fractions

Directions: Use the digits 1 to 9, at most one time each, to make three equivalent fractions.

Thinking is Fun

I have yet to meet a kid (or adult) who doesn’t like to learn. Learning feels good! Feeling dumb feels bad. Especially those with low self-efficacy some people avoid trying something not necessarily because they don’t like to learn but because they are afraid it will prove they are not smart. When I bring out Open Middle math problems that require strategizing to find the answer rather than just trying to recall what the first step is, I have very good success with “non math people” saying this is fun. Because thinking is fun. Memorizing is not always fun. To encourage thinking we need a low risk of failure. It’s okay to strategize! Which means try something, get some feedback, try some more. Fun is not necessarily a game but rather a challenge worth overcoming. Who wants to play a game that is too easy or a game that is too hard? A challenging journey of failure where you need to fail in order to find the right strategy can be really fun.

Template

Click here for a Google Slides of the fraction activity

Find 3 equivalent fractions. One of the fractions is a double digit in the denominator but a single digit in the numerator. The other two only have single digits. Use the digits 1 – 9 (NOT ZERO!) find these 3 fractions. Tip: there is more than one answer.

I have a slight Google Slides addiction so I recreated the template in Google Slides. I don’t think this is better than just using paper or whiteboards. My students did it on paper. I’m a believer in being purposeful in using tech, don’t use it for the sake of using tech. Google Slides allows me to give asynchronous feedback. So if students are going to work on it over time and need some feedback (careful not to do the thinking for them! Use questioning strategies) then Slides can be helpful for that. Also, if students are being asked to do a presentation of their work the template can be helpful to get them.

Use the tiny arrow

In the toolbar of Google Slides notice the tiny triangle next to the plus icon to add a slide. I have modified the layouts to give students some different options. Students should add text boxes explaining their thinking. I want to see their failed attempts and why they knew it was not that combination probably more than I want to see their correct solution. I want to see their thinking journey. Slides is great for that. Students can do that on paper too.




How Many Ways Can You Write 27 + 8?