Top 5 Tips for Decomposing Fractions

As I have mentioned in previous posts about fractions, starting with hands on and pictorial activities is vital for helping primary intermediate level students understand fractions. Today I would like to share my top 5 tips for decomposing fractions. These are mainly focused on 3rd – 5th grade, but may be helpful for some older and younger students as well.


1.)  I love using my pizza game for hands on fractions!  If you don’t have a pizza game, you can use plastic fraction circles or make pizza fractions from paper plates. Show your students a fraction of a pizza such as 5/6. After guided them to name the fraction, show them one way to decompose it by giving 2/6 to one student and 3/6 to another student. Point out that 2/6 + 3/6 is a way to decompose 5/6 and ask if they can name any other ways.  Act out other representations such as 2/6 + 1/6 + 2/6 by giving those slices to other students.  Try this with several different students.


2.)  Give students color tiles or unifix cubes. Give specific directions such as make a rectangle with 3 red, 2 blue and 7 yellow.  What fraction of your tiles are not yellow? (5/12)  Move the red and blue apart a little to show how 5/12 can also be represented as 3/12 + 2/12.  Do this with a few other fractions as well.



3.) Give students pictures of fractions and have them cut them up to show ways to decompose the fraction.


4.) Coloring Practice – Give students pictures of fractions with nothing shaded.  Give them directions on what color to color different parts.  Then guide them to write number sentences to decompose the fractions.


5.) Play Games!  Make your own games to practice decomposing fractions or try one of the games I have available on my TpT page.




Decomposing Fractions in Upper Elementary


There have been a lot of changes in Math objectives and instruction over the past few years. One change that I wasn’t so sure about at first was “decomposing fractions“.  At the time I was teaching third grade and there were already so many fraction concepts to teach. But, let me tell you, after working with my students on decomposing fractions, I see that they understand fractions a lot better than when we just labeled the fractions. Composing and decomposing the fractions helps them to really see how the parts and wholes relate. Now that I am tutoring 4th, 5th and 6th graders, I see how decomposing fractions really helps them to understand the “bigger” things that they do. Continue reading