Teaching Unit Fractions


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Your students will truly internalize what the denominator in a fraction represents.  I have a free download with ALL of the resources shown in this post.  They are part of my 4th grade Fraction unit and can easily be adapted for 2nd-5th graders.

And now on to my



I started the lesson by taping the fraction cards on the board and then I opened the box of donuts and walked through the class with it.  I asked them to take a deep breath of the fresh, sweet smell as I passed by.

Each group sent one student to the board and I had them face the class and explained how this was all going to go down.  When they turned around they had 10 seconds to take a fraction card from the board, which would determine what fraction of a donut each student in the group received.  When I said go, the students in the front frantically looked at the cards.


Someone grabbed ½ right away, then the next person lurched forward to nab 1/100. Soon 1/10, 1/6 and 1/4 were all taken.  There were only 5 groups, and 1/3 was left on the board.  Already, you can see the misconceptions that were held by many students.  Inside, I was absolutely giddy!!! Today, I really got to teach students about fractions!!! Fractions are introduced in 1st grade, yet many students in 4th grade still don’t really understand them.  And I can say that when I taught Algebra, a lot of freshman didn’t understand them either.


Today that would end for this group of kiddos.

I wasn’t going to tell them about fractions.

They were going to experience fractions.


I took out a donut and a plastic knife and asked the “1/4 group” to stand up.


We talked about the numerator being

the number of parts each person in the group

would receive and the

denominator being the number of parts

I would cut one donut into.


I cut 2 donuts into fourths and gave each group member a piece.  I saved one and left it under the document camera (i.e. elmo) and labeled it 1/4.

The 1/3 card had never been taken off the board.  I asked the “1/100 group” if they wanted to trade their card for the 1/3 card.  They conferred and decided to stick with their 1/100th slice of a donut.  I didn’t slice theirs yet, but went on to slice pieces for the 1/2, 1/6, and 1/10 groups.



With each round, we discussed what the numerator and denominator of each fraction meant and predicted how each piece would compare to the other pieces that had already been sliced.  It is really important to ask students to compare a piece you are about to cut BEFORE actually slicing it, because you want to develop visualization and thinking skills in your students.


By this time, the 1/100th group was


to switch their card.  

Being the loving teacher that I am,

I didn’t let them.


They could forgo a larger piece of a donut for the opportunity to learn a lesson they would never forget:


The larger the denominator,

the smaller the piece.


I took one of the leftover 1/10th slices and we talked about how we could make 1/100th pieces (more like crumbs) out of that slice.  If we cut the 1/10th slice into 10 pieces, each one would be 1/100th of a donut.


After each group had their fraction of a donut, we discussed what we learned about denominators.  It is best to have students discuss their observations in pairs and then small groups before having a whole class discussion.  Here is a big idea we need to consider during all our lessons:


The person doing the talking

is the person doing the learning.


Why?  Because the cognitive processes in our brains that are occurring when we explain and justify a concept are building pathways and deepen our understanding.


After our exploration, we recorded what we learned with the “exploring unit fractions” and “comparing unit fractions” notebook pages.


It is important for students to record

new concepts in both pictures and words.


There is something amazing that happens in the brain when students explain a new concept they learned in their own words.



Students practiced comparing unit fractions with a fun game & a printable.


Games are THE BEST way to

practice new skills.


Students are ALWAYS so engaged when there is competition involved and you can pull them out again and again for review.


Journal prompts make a great

math station activity

and are also perfect for homework.


They are the opposite of busy work and provide an excellent opportunity for students to reflect on what was learned that day.



The perfect end to any lesson is a quick assessment to monitor student learning.


 The best intervention

is the one that happens right away.


Take a quick snapshot of student learning with exit slips and jot down the names of students who need reteach in a notebook (or in the space on the key I made!).




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and get the lesson plan and ALL of the resources pictured in this blog post for FREE!!!




I hope you and your students love this lesson as much as my students have,

Melissa Johnson Signature


 If you are interested in an

easy-to-implement unit 

with lessons, notebook pages, printables,

no-prep games, card games,

journal prompts & exit slips

that work together seamlessly, check out my

4th Grade Fraction Unit & Bundle HERE.



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