I just introduced my 3rd graders to comparing and ordering fractions last week and it didn't go well. They understand fractions of a whole, and fractions of a set but seem to be confused with the other two concepts. Any cool lessons or ideas out there that can help my little ones?? I'm on a mission to show them these concepts in a new on Monday! Any suggestions????

I hope you have stuck with manipulatives so far, or, at the very least, pictorial representations. Even with 5th graders I start out with that. They need lots and lots of experience handling and visualizing fraction representation before working on the numbers. Do you have the pizza game or any other games with the pieces cut out? Have you worked with fraction squares and circles? Did the kids trace them, lay them on top of other pieces, become familiar with them? Have you used any real food in your presentation? There is so much you can do and 3rd graders really need to get a good gut feel for the concepts before you address them in abstract form.

I love to use brownies or hersey bars, they love it. Fraction circles or towers are another great way to show them. You can buy them at a teacher store, or make your own!

I started by talking about candy bars--would you rather share this candy bar with 3 people, or with 6? My kids quickly got the connection between a larger denominator and smaller pieces. Then we used fraction strips, and they really worked well for my kiddos. Even my ones who usual struggle did really well.

For ordering fractions we set up a number line between 0 and 1 on the floor. First we divided it in half and put 1/2 and 2/2 in the proper places. Then we divided it into 3 parts and placed 1/3, 2/3 and 3/3 in the proper places, etc. This was a great visual to help show students that as the denominator gets bigger, the fraction gets smaller. To take it further, I showed them a picture of 2 pizza, one cut in half the other cut into 8 pizzas and asked if they'd rather have 1/2 of the pizza or 1/8. This introductory lesson was very helpful for my 4th graders.

I volunteer in a 3rd grade classroom one morning a week, and the teacher had her students play "Fraction War" to practice comparing fractions. The pieces were just fraction strips that had been colored in with different fractions and cut out. Each student got a pile of fraction strips. They each laid down a strip and worked together to figure out which fraction was greater. Whoever had laid down the larger fraction got to add both of the fractions to his or her stash. The kids really seemed to enjoy the game.

Oooo--that reminds me! We played fraction war using decks of cards. I took out the numbers that didn't match the fraction strips we had (7, 9, and face cards, I think). The kids divided up the cards. Each player flipped up two, and made a fraction. Then they used their fraction pieces to figure out which was larger.

Are you comparing fractions with common denominators or fractions with unlike denominators? (Many programs start out with just comparing fractions with like denominators at the 3rd grade level.) If you're working on fractions with unlike denominators: how are they with equivalent fractions? Do they need more experience finding equivalent fractions using manipulatives (e.g. fraction bars or strips, circles) before they can generalize abstractly about a rule for generating equivalent fractions? I like the suggestions above; I often give the example of 'would you rather share a candy bar amongst 6 people or 3 people?' Marilyn Burns advocates having students create the fraction strips themselves by folding and cutting colored construction paper. She says this helps them internalize the proportions better. In order to compare and order fractions, they will need these kind of perceptual benchmarks (picture in their heads, etc.).

Wow, these are all great ideas!!!!! I realize that I was getting a bit frustrated with the way our math program touches on equivalent fractions for one day and comparing/ordering fractions for one day. Isn't that crazy???? I mentioned this to my math dept. head and she agreed! So I will have more time in my math blocks next week to reinforce these concepts. I did use the fraction bars & fraction circles. I will continue to use these manipulatives as well fit in some of the cool activities you all mentioned! Thanks again!