Fraction manipulatives make fractions concrete. You can display these 5 online fraction manipulatives on a smart board during lessons. Students can also use these on chromebooks, iPads and laptops.
I believe strongly that math should be meaningful. There are many short cuts we’ve learned with fractions but those short cuts are really only meaningful when a kid discovers them. Using manipulatives makes a somewhat abstract concept concrete.
Fraction Manipulative #1: ABCya Fraction Tiles
These fraction tiles are my go to virtual fraction manipulative. I love the way they snap into place. I have real life fraction tiles like these in my classroom. Sometimes we use the hands on version, but some kids love using them online. I let kids choose whether they want to use the online manipulatives or hands on.
These are great for adding fractions with unlike denominators. The kids are able to show equivalent fractions. I encourage them to follow the line on the pop out from the fraction they are looking at to see what other denominators have the same line. This helps them choose a common denominator.
The key is to ask questions. Often students notice patterns but have a hard time vocalizing them. Asking questions helps them to narrow in on what they see. As students start to see the relationship between multiplication and the tiles, they can start to solve problems without the virtual manipulatives.
Fraction Manipulative #2: Math Playground Fraction Bars
These fraction scales take comparing fractions and equivalent fractions to another level. When introducing comparing fractions I take students through several strategies.
This manipulative is a great visual for introducing comparing fractions with the same numerator. Explaining that the larger denominators mean the fraction is smaller sounds confusing. Instead, as we start these task cards, we do a few together and watch the scale. We discuss what we see focusing on the denominators. Once students understand the pattern, they move away from needing manipulatives.
Fraction Manipulative #3: Math Playground Fraction Scales
While this is another set of fraction bars, these are different in that they can be split into smaller pieces. When introducing multiplying fractions, I use a PowerPoint with visuals. Some students need hands on opportunity with the concept of 1/2 x 1/2 means 1/2 of 1/2. You can pull out scissors and paper and have students use shapes, but this virtual manipulative allows kids to split fractions in half, thirds etc. It is a great tool when starting out with multiplying fractions.
Fraction Manipulative #4: Fraction Bars from McGraw Hill
This fraction bar tool provides a user error free opportunity for working with equivalent fractions. Working as an interventionist, I find that most students that come to me for help with fractions have the root of their difficulty in the lack of understanding of equivalent fractions.
You can tell students that fractions with the same numerator and denominator are equal to one, and they may remember to write it that way, but when they move on to something like adding mixed numbers, it becomes clear who was told and who knows. Someone may tell you that Julie is super sweet, but the first time she compliments you in a way that makes your day, you suddenly understand what everyone was talking about.
Just a few minutes physically demonstrating a concept with manipulatives can leave a lasting impression.
Fraction Manipulative #5: Fraction Circles from Eduplace
Why does everyone talk about pizza when they teach fractions? Because it is delicious?
I’ve seen people complain about the pizza comparison. If it is the only comparison you ever make, that is a problem. But, please don’t stop connecting fractions to real life. It means something to the kids. I use the brownie pan analogy when we are talking about fraction bars. I find that sharing food analogies really drive home the concept that large denominators mean smaller pieces.
Fraction bars are easier to compare, but mixing it up with circles can be a good thing. This tool would be great with younger students because they can connect the scissor icon with the idea that fractions cut things into pieces. They can color the pieces to show the numerators. The hand tool lets you drag a piece onto another one to compare. I wish it would let you place them on top, but it just beeps when you let go.
Looking for Fraction Resources?
When I first started blogging, I was teaching 5th grade math all day (three different groups). It quickly became clear to me that the kids didn’t have the basic fraction understanding that they needed. So, I created PowerPoints and task cards to use in my classroom. We started in the beginning with identifying fractions and worked our way up to multiplying fractions by the end of the year. I used the task cards to differentiate.
Now that I’m an intervention teacher, I still use these every year. We usually do 2-4 task cards together. I’ll use an online manipulative to demonstrate and work through the cards. We talk about what we see and students suggest short cuts. Then students work in small groups or individually on the rest. Most students start out with manipulatives. My favorite moment is when a kid suddenly “gets it”. They realize that they don’t need the manipulatives anymore and then they start teaching their friends their “tricks” they discovered. They will remember the tricks they come up with so much better than they will something a teacher said to them.
Here are fraction resources you can find in my store on TPT. The task cards and PowerPoints are available bundled or individually.