Recently I have been working with my 4th graders on decimals. We have been identifying decimals, naming decimals, comparing decimals, adding and subtracting decimals. For some students decimals can be daunting at first, but I have a few strategies to help them understand and be successful!
- Money! Get out the money and review the relationships between dollars, dimes and pennies. Give students a set amount such as $2.37 and ask them to show you with the money and write it out. Most students will already know how to write the amount of money with the decimal. Help the students who need it. This is a great time to ask the students what “the little dot” is called (decimal point) and what it means. If no one knows, fill them in. Then lead the discussion to the meaning of the words “tenths” and “hundredths” and relate again to money.
2. Fractions! Relate decimals to fractions. Show fraction models with tenths shaded. Show students how to write as a decimal and explain that we read the tenths the same. Next show fraction models with 100 squares to discuss hundredths.3. Real Life! Bring in store ads and other authentic materials to show how decimals are used in real life. Lead a discussion among your students about how decimals are used and how to read the decimals.
4. Pictorial practice! Provide your students with a lot of pictorial practice before you move on to abstract practice without pictures or models!
5. Back up when they need it! Sometimes students will seem to “get it” so we move on to the next step, and they are lost. If you move forward and your students are stuck, move back and give them the real life and pictorial models again.