The concept of fractions can be a daunting and difficult area of mathematics to both understand and teach, but it can be the area where you have the most fun and really see if your students can articulate their mathematical thinking.
It is Term 4 in Stage 3 (Year 5 and 6) and the year is winding down. We still have to teach Mathematics (for obvious reasons other than to just fill in the days until we go on holidays) and I still want my students to be challenged, engaged and excited for their learning. More often than not I will create a Google Slide document that has all my lessons and their associated resources for the subject/content area I am teaching. In this instance, it was fractions and decimals. Please click here to see a copy of my example. When creating the Google Slide document I make sure that I make it as student-friendly as possible, so that when necessary they can independently work through some of the tasks. One of the aspects that I am mandated to teach about fractions and decimals is the ability to arrange and order fractions with like and unlike denominators on a number line (quite a difficult and higher order thinking task that requires a variety of mathematical skills to complete it successfully.)
I wanted to make the teaching of this meaningful, engaging and very structured and explicit, so I did. After my explicit teaching of this concept, meaningful classroom discussions and some whole class practise I took somewhat of a risk in what I asked of my students. Firstly, I utilised the amazing EDpuzzle online platform to develop students knowledge further. Students watched a video from the very helpful and informative online learning institution Khan Academy about the ordering of fractions on a number. I embedded questions and reflective comments using EDpuzzle to help build students knowledge. I didn’t want to stop here and this is where I took somewhat of a risk and threw students into the deep end…somewhat. I was thinking about the YouTube and digital culture we live in and even the video I had just utilised as a resource for this lesson. I thought to myself, well why couldn’t my students create a video tutorial about how to order fractions on a number line? I have taught this concept well (if I don’t say so myself), I believe in them to rise to the high expectations of such a task, they have the skills and knowledge to do so, it would be a really powerful, purposeful and meaningful way for me to gauge if they have understood this concept. The reasons kept coming, so it is exactly what I asked them to do, by using the ever so versatile application Explain Everything.
I posed the scenario that they are creating a YouTube channel and want to create a video tutorial helping next year’s Year Five and any other student that may have trouble understanding this difficult concept of ordering fractions on a number line. Students needed to really think about not only how to order the fractions on the number line but how to explain this to someone else so they could clearly understand it. Their knowledge had to be ‘top notch’. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the quality of work I saw returned and also the enthusiasm for learning that was occurring. I even had students re-doing and enhancing their work at home because they really wanted to make a high-quality video tutorial. As an educator, it was fantastic to see.
Here’s what one student had to say about this lesson:
‘Before I began recording I created a script or really just an outline of what I needed to say and do. I had to create the number line on an iPad app called ‘Explain Everything’. In the video, I explained the steps and tricks of dividing your number line up and I also explained how to complete the fraction, which was a term I used quite a lot in my video.
I really enjoyed learning how to speak mathematically because it made me feel smart, but I feel like I learnt so much in just making a short 3-minute Maths video. Even though I had to redo the video like ‘100 times,’ but I didn’t give up. I learnt in this video that I should never give up even it takes so many tries and redo’s, I began to get frustrated, but I tried and tried again until I succeeded. I had lot’s of fun creating this video and now making fraction number lines is one of my favourite things to do in maths!’
Next time when I come to teach this lesson again I plan to use my student videos as a model and guide (student work does serve a real-life purpose!). Students love seeing their work out there and being shared with the world to see…so do it!
As educators, you can probably see the variety of benefits and purposefulness of this simple but effective lesson/task. The ones that really stand out for me are:
– students using 21st-century technology to impart an intended message;
– the amount of meaningful student data that can be obtained and analysed from this task. (It was very eye-opening to see how students were articulating their thinking and where they needed to improve);
– the task had many cross-curriculum links, especially to literacy;
– the ability to share and create a purposeful piece of work that had an authentic and real-world use;
– the appeal and engagement the task had for students.
I hope this post has given you some inspiration to embed 21st-century technologies into your classroom, think a bit differently about the way you teach numeracy and maybe even to take a risk. It will definitely pay off. If you have any questions about this lesson or anything else that I am doing in my classroom please feel free to reach out and follow me on the Twittersphere @TheMrHolgate.
Teaching and Learning Specialist
Google Certified Educator
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