Engagement Ideas for Fractions

I’m a huge fan of using digital tools in the learning process but I’m equally passionate about children being outside, active and getting their hands on things.

I hated being told, ‘Don’t touch!’ when I was younger. I still do. It bugs me, then, when I hear myself saying it to students in the classroom. This week I’ve made an extra effort to get outside and let the children ‘loose’ with some P.E equipment to solve a fraction based problem.

This activity required the pairs of students to
arrange their ‘sheep’ (the cones) into three equal paddocks. They could move the ‘electric fences’ (skipping ropes) inside the farm and put the sheep where they thought they could go. It became a great way for the group to encounter fractions for the first time this without even knowing it.

The group then followed this with another ‘farm’ that needed 15 Lhamas (frisbees, and you can use your imagination) divided up amongst three paddocks. The thinking led us to discover 1 third, 2 thirds and then 3 thirds of 15. They were then able to draw their thinking in chalk on the pavement.

Another small group technique I’ve started is something I’ve used for writing groups. It’s amazing how motivated students are when they have a whiteboard pen in their hand!

Each student has a laminated white sheet to draw and show their thinking. I do, however, have to confess to using, “3.2.1 hands off!” to regain their attention but the increase in student focus has been amazing to see.

The last development to our maths programme has been the use of an online quiz from Proprofs Quiz School. This is an application that you can embed into a website or blog that records a students results, is incredibly easy to construct and enables embeded video and images.

The quiz tells you when you have answered correct or otherwise and you are given a certificate of achievement at the end. This week I had a relatively low achiever in maths email me his result because he scored 100%. I was able to show him how to email a jpeg version to his Grandad and his face literally shone.

It’s amazing me how much progress the entire class has made in a short time we have been learning about fractions. What I’m noticing, so far, is that nearly ALL of the students are achieving success but it does come at a cost.

The reading I’ve made into student engagement has suggested that there is a difference between engagement and compliance. Some research shows that compliance results in co-operation while engagement results in learning.

It’s great to see these activities drawing otherwise detached students into their maths.


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