Adding and Subtracting Mixed Numbers is challenging for 5th Graders. Let’s take a look at some steps to help our students with fractions.
I mentioned in my last post some fifth graders I worked with recently that were struggling to add and subtract mixed numbers.
It is no wonder. You have to be able to fluently do all the previous fraction skills to be successful.
Typically, I have 2 weeks for an intervention group. Luckily this group was before spring break so we decided to give this challenge 3 weeks.
Some of the kiddos came in, as the 5th graders often do, telling me that they don’t need help with fractions. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they just didn’t give their best on the test in class and they really do have a grasp on the concept. Sometimes they have no idea what our posted objective really means. I let them take a pretest with the promise that they won’t need intervention if they get 100%.
This time, the kids had a weird reaction. Many of the boys that told me they knew how to do this, looked at the pretest and said, “Nevermind. I don’t know how to do this.”
Most of the pretests were blank. The ones that weren’t had answers where the numerators AND the denominators had been added left to right.
Having already thought through the foundational skills, I was luckily prepare for starting at the beginning.
I spent a year teaching 5th grade math and had broken down the fraction skills to minute details. If you take a look at my fraction section of my store, you’ll see this was a huge focus for me. I made task cards for each little step along the fraction path. Starting with my Identify Fractions Freebie.
It seems kind of silly that I created a 3rd grade product with such a simple objective while teaching 5th grade math, but it turned out I’ve needed it a lot.
When I taught 5th grade, I had them printed and hanging on my wall so I could have specific student practice their specific needs.
I gave those to the next 5th grade math teacher. Now, I pull up task cards electronically on my interactive white boards and we use them with white boards.
Besides saving tons of ink, they give me a quick review option. If kids can answer 4 task cards easily on their white boards, then I move up to the next foundational skill,
I discovered through my review that my students didn’t know how to find a common denominator. So we spent a significant amount of time practicing with my Find a Common Denominator Task Cards.
Then we practiced Adding Fractions with Unlike Denominators and simplifying. We spent a lot of time on simplifying.
Then, I thought we could start adding Mixed Numbers. I was wrong.
So many of the students I see for intervention have anxiety surrounding math. They are actually quite quick to learn, but if they miss one thing, they shut down and tune out. Not exactly a successful strategy. So, I encourage them to stop me if they get lost.
The first problem in, kids stopped me. Oh. So, we need to review what a mixed number is, what an improper fraction is, and how to go back and forth with them. OK.
… SIDE NOTE… I attended a training where we were told to stop using the phrase “improper fraction” because there is a judgement that there is something wrong with it. Really?!? What should we say instead? Well, we can call it a number in a fractional form. Sigh. Until someone gives me an actual label for it, I’m not going to stop calling fractions “improper”. How can I teach math without labeling the skill I’m teaching!?… Back to your regularly scheduled blog post…
So we spent some time working with Changing Improper Fractions to Mixed Numbers and Changing Mixed Numbers to Improper Fractions.
Then we were ready to start adding and subtracting mixed numbers. Thank God I had three weeks for all that!
Honestly, the last day when they were taking the test. I was nervous. I was so proud to grade them and give out mostly 100%. Sometimes, grade level objectives can be daunting when working with students with a below grade level background, but just focusing on the baby steps along the way leads to success. I’m not going to lie, though. My feet were sore after all those steps.
If you are somewhere in that continuum of fraction skills and are looking for some resources, I have several bundles which are all at least 20% off. I’m listing them in the order I teach them so you can jump on wherever your needs fit. 🙂 Just click the picture to find it in my store.
My newest was created in the midst of all that struggle. 🙂
My next 5th grade referral is for multiplying mixed numbers. I’m already working on my next batch of task cards and breaking down the foundational steps needed. Wish me luck. 🙂
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