While reviewing fractions for the 4th Math LEAP test last week I had an aha moment. I was drawing the model for a mixed number and I realized that I had not really focused on converting improper fractions to mixed numbers. Well, I continued with my mixed number review but I sat there talking to talking to a student about how to convert an improper fraction to a mixed number.
While I was talking to her I was thinking that I cannot teach all of my students to use division to convert the improper fraction. So, I looked at the improper fraction and all of sudden it popped into my head, DECOMPOSE the fraction! I wrote the fraction 7/3 and then began to decompose it into 3/3 + 3/3+ 1/3 = 2 and 1/3. I was so thrilled that it worked but I wasn’t convinced that it would all of the time.
After dismissal I went to the 5th grade math teacher’s classroom and showed her what I had discovered. I asked her does this work all of the time? She walked over to an anchor chart on her wall an pointed to a strategy at the bottom. She said that it was one of the strategies in 5th grade for converting improper fractions to mixed number and a vice versa.
I was so pleased to know that it worked all of the time for mixed number and improper fractions because my students who were not proficient with division had a method that they could use to covert improper fractions to mixed numbers.
The next day I first introduced this method of converting a mixed number to an improper fraction because I figured the whole number is easier to decompose. Then I began to show the students how to decompose the improper fraction to a mixed number. They really understood how to decompose the improper fraction and find the fraction to add to the whole to create the mixed number. I was so excited because this showed me that my students’ level of thinking had increased and their understanding of fractions for the most part was solid!
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