Pattern Blocks – Making Fractions Real

By: Mary Kienstra on: February 3, 2017  in: fractions, math engagement

Understanding fractions is so much easier when kids can touch the models.  Pattern blocks are making fractions real.  They are the perfect models just for that.  Today I introduced fractions to my third graders with pattern blocks.  And they got it.

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A basket full of pattern blocks is just the thing for working on fractions

We started with thinking that the yellow hexagon represents one.  From there we investigated what the other pieces represent.  As the kids handled the pieces and compared them to the yellow hexagon, they began to realize that if it takes 3 blue pieces to cover the hexagon, that each blue piece = 1/3.   Kids experiment with arranging the pattern blocks and construct their knowledge of fractions as they go.

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After kids begin to understand how these pieces relate to each other, we change the rules.  Now, we make the red trapezoid to equal 1 and then think about how that changes the values of all of the other pieces.  You can see the little light bulbs going on above their heads as they begin to make connections.

Continuing the lesson, kids work with a partner to change which piece will equal 1 and then find the values of the other pieces.  Another approach is to let one of the pieces equal 1/2 or 1/3 and then calculate the values of the others.  Adjusting the level of challenge is essential to challenging and supporting each student.  I love watching them work  – they are truly beginning to understand what fractions mean.

This approach to teaching fractions helps all kids understand what a fraction is – a part of a whole.  After this lesson, kids can continue to use the pattern blocks as a support for fraction understanding as they move to more abstract understandings.  Teaching with models like pattern blocks is a concrete way to give kids the opportunity to build fractions and their own understanding.

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Plastic Pattern Blocks are available at Amazon.com as well as other math manipulative suppliers.

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