Focus on Fractions

The Common Core Standards for Mathematics, have focused on fractions, and for good reason.  In its comprehensive report on the state of math education in America, the National Math Panel said understanding fractions is “the most important foundational skill NOT developed among American students,” and is key to learning Algebra.  Since fractions are the gateway to Algebra and Algebra is a required class for high school graduation, elementary and middle school math teachers need to have a clear understanding of fractions and fraction instruction.

Today, in many middle school classrooms, students struggle with fractional concepts.  In the common core standards, students will first be introduced to fractions in the third grade.  They will learn that fractions are numbers, not just parts of cookies or pizzas.  This transition from thinking of fractions as “parts of a shape” to numbers will make it easier for students to comprehend their use in operations.  Students will be expected to work proficiently with fraction operations by the end of sixth grade and understand the relationship between fractions, decimals, and percents by the end of seventh grade.

With the new, and long overdue, emphasis on fractional concepts in the common core standards, it will behoove teachers to examine their own understanding of fractions.  It is often true, we teach the same way we were taught and most of us weren’t taught about fractions from a conceptual standpoint but rather in a very procedural manner.  In response to this new focus on fractions, teachers need to look for professional development opportunities that will increase their own conceptual understanding and provide them with instructional strategies to use to help their students.  Here at ESSDACK, we have established a facebook page called, Geared Up: Common Core Standards where teachers can interact with each other as we move toward full implementation of the Common Core Stndards.  We are also working on a website called , All Things Common Core, where teachers can share resources and ideas.

Just “sum” things I hope you will check out.

Hi, I am Renee' Smith and I began teaching math in, of all places, a maximum security prison. “I was 21 years old and 99 lbs. soaking wet. Some of my students were convicted murderers and as scary as it sounds, it was incredibly sad. Many of those men had failed in the school system and then turned to crime.” That early experience with public school dropouts, cemented my resolve to help future students understand and succeed in the area of mathematics. To that end I dedicated 16 years to the classroom, teaching 5th grade math through algebra. After obtaining my Masters in Education from Baker University, I joined the ESSDACK team in 2007. I have presented at the local, state, and national levels but my most worthwhile experience at ESSDACK has been working to take the fear out of math for teachers and students alike. Although my primary focus has been providing professional development in mathematics, I also devote time to podcasting and creating materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. My podcasts include, By the Numbers, Just Desserts and Math Snacks. Working at ESSDACK has provided me the opportunity to do many of the things I love. “I have the time to research current educational practices, I get to be creative, collaborative, and I meet tons of new people."

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