“Sixth Sense”

Do you sometimes feel like you have a sixth sense when you are teaching? I am talking about that nonverbal reaction that you can feel from your students when you are teaching and at certain moments during the lesson you just KNOW they get the concept.
This happened to me the other day when I was teaching a lesson dealing with adding fractions with uncommon denominators.
I was trying to explain the “why” we have to change the denominators before you can add fractions and I had said over and over the example explaining how you can’t compare apples to oranges. Not a good comparison to use with lower school math students.
So I drew a pizza on the board and shared it with imaginary kids and voila, it clicked.
I could see that they finally understood WHY you have to change the fraction to an equivalent fraction. I explained that if your pizza is cut into eighths, you couldn’t take a sixth of a piece away since it is cut into eighths. I showed them that first you have to find an equivalent fraction. I also used fractions strips to enforce the concept.
The next day, I used a drawing of a candy bar and said the same thing and once again everything seemed to make sense to them.
Now, putting everything together is the challenge. We started adding fractions with unlike denominators (with simplifying) and it was like I was speaking a foreign language again. They seem to be having difficulty putting all of the steps together.
So, back to the drawing board. Does anyone have any good ideas for this skill other than repetition? I sure would appreciate any help.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Diane Norbury
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 06:50:12

    I don’t think there is a quick way for students to ‘get’ this other than repetition – how quickly they remember the need to change the denominator is a reflection of their overall cognitive development in Maths – the same thing will happen when you move to subtracting and then working with mixed numbers. In my experience, they don’t need to be reminded when they do it again at the next year level.


    • shellyzavon
      Mar 17, 2013 @ 18:17:39

      We are currently using Singapore Math at our school and I find this is one of the best things about the curriculum. It explains the “why” in math. It is easy to show the algorithms and say “do this”. But, it is so much better when the students see why we do something. If I can start showing them now,in Fourth Grade, the “why”, think how much deeper their understanding will be in years to come.
      Thank you for your comment!


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