# Teach Fractions or Decimals first? Seeks Math Whiz help! :)

Discussion in 'General Education' started by 773 Miles Away, Jun 29, 2009.

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Jun 29, 2009

Normally I'd post this in the elementary section because I teach 4th grade... but I thought those that teach upper level math might be able to give me insight as well.

We use Everyday Math for our curriculum, though I do not follow it page by page exactly. In the curriculum it introduces decimals first (up to the thousandths) and then introduces fractions a couple chapters later.

The way it deals with decimals is by using cubes, longs, and flats. A flat is made up of 100 tiny cubes and a long is made up of 10 tiny cubes. So if the Flat is the whole (the One) then 1 long = 0.1 or 1/10, and the cube = 0.01 or 1/100th. As far as I can remember, it doesn't actually show the fraction.

They develop their understanding of a decimal being only part of one by looking at the concept that 0.1 x 10 = 1... etc etc.

Do you agree that dealing with the decimal concept first is good, and then dealing with fraction concepts after??

I'm not sure if either one is better first.. I just know that it was a challenging concept for my kids in general.

Thoughts????

3. ### mollydollConnoisseur

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Jun 29, 2009

I'm not a math teacher, but I can say from my experiences tutoring developmental math at a community college, I had the best results doing fractions first.

Many of the people I tutored had severe cases of math phobia and were trying to pass pre-algebra so they could take the classes they needed for credit. I also tutored people trying to pass Praxis I (those ones scared me, I must admit...). Fractions and decimals pretty much universally scared them silly, but I found that they dealt best with decimals after getting comfortable with fractions and percents. For example, the concept of .5 being 1/2 and 50% off made sense to them once I took them through newspaper sale ads. I also used money.

I can't provide any input on how this translates to elementary school kids though.

Edited to remove the evidence of me being a dodo brain. :lol:

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Jun 29, 2009

We use Scott Foresman math and we teach fractions first and then move into decimals.

5. ### scholarteacherConnoisseur

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Jun 29, 2009

Seems like most kids would have learned some fractions first. For decimals, the base 10 blocks you mentioned are great. Money works well to: 10 cents is 1/10 of a dollar, etc.

6. ### HMMCohort

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Jun 29, 2009

I don't think we want to be telling them that

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Jun 29, 2009

We use Houghton Mifflin math series and teach fractions first. Once my group understood fractions, decimals were easy.

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Jun 29, 2009

No, .3 does not equal 1/3.

I think you have to constantly use both decimals and fractions and constantly point out the equivalents.

When I used a base ten set, I used the cube for 1 whole so that I could get down to the thousandths. I always noted both the fraction and decimal forms.

Do you do calendar math every morning? That helps a lot.

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Jun 29, 2009

No we don't do calendar math in the 4th grade. EDM uses a cube (or I think EDM calls them blocks) as the whole when they start to introduce thousandths.. but first they make a flat the whole... not sure if I want to just start with the block as a whole, or do the switch like they do. They switch the whole from flat to block so kids can understand that the whole changes as well.

10. ### Missy99Connoisseur

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Jun 29, 2009

Definitely fractions first.

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Jun 29, 2009

I wish I knew why EDM put their major decimal chapter before their major fraction chapter....

12. ### mollydollConnoisseur

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Jun 29, 2009

Yeah, I just realized that I made up a Very Bad Example. Never fear, I actually used examples like .4, .5 and saved the repeating decimals for another day.

13. ### mmswmModerator

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Jun 29, 2009

This is yet another in a very long list of reasons why I do NOT like EDM.

14. ### HMMCohort

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Jun 29, 2009

Conceptually I think fractions are easier, but computationally they are more difficult for most people.

I can see the merit of doing decimals before fractions. Decimals are just a generalization of integers. Decimal multiplication and addition are not that much different from integer mult/add. Fractions require a new set of rules to do these operations.

That said, since I have never introduced fractions/decimals before I'll stop talking now.

15. ### mmswmModerator

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Jun 29, 2009

While they are both parts of a whole, small simple fractions are easy to visualize and draw out, so when introducing the concept of what they are, I like to do fractions first. With the younger set, doing any sort of arithmetic with fractions beyond adding/subtracting with common denominators should be put off until the multiplication tables are solid. I think that doing unlike denominators and reducing fractions too soon is part of why many people have a fear of them.

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Jun 29, 2009

Good point in regards to the conceptual and computational difference. Personally I feel like a conceptual understanding should have more priority and be introduced first and then computational should be second priority. Thoughts?

17. ### mmswmModerator

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Jun 29, 2009

Yes, I think conceptual knowledge in the early years is extremely important. If the concept isn't there, then how can a student know what makes sense when they start doing arithmetic with them?

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If you start with the decimals for place value, it is really easy. Just say, what is this place value position? They say 1/10. You say, oh that means a 1 in the tenths place, and write .1. Go on to do the same for 1/100 and 1/1000.

Next, tell them that if you can say the word form of a decimal, you can write it as a fraction. The word form for .05 is 5/100 because it has a 5 in the hundredths place. If they can say the word form of any decimal, they should be able to write what they say in fraction form.

19. ### mmswmModerator

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Jun 29, 2009

But what exactly is 1 tenth, or 3 tenths? I'm not an expert with little ones, since my only experience is with my own children, but I've found that it's easier to get the idea of "part of a whole" from small, simple fractions, then move onto what that means in decimal forms. My own personal opinion of what order it should be taught is this:

1) The concept of a part of a whole using small simple fractions such as 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/10(an important one) and such.

2) Apply the concept, along with place value, to decimals

3) Arithmetic with decimals

4)Arithmetic with fractions

Once again, that's just my opinion.

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Jun 29, 2009

Yes, but they've already learned those by 4th grade, mm. They should be able to recognize visual representations of parts of a whole and parts of a group already. By the end of 5th grade, many students will be ready to convert fractions to decimals.

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