A good portion of fifth grade math deals with four fraction operations: addition & subtraction with unlike denominators , multiplication, & division. There are some important things to know before students can truly understand any of these operations. For example, it is important that students know what a fraction is & what each part of a fraction represents. It is also important for them to understand how equivalent fractions represent the same part of a whole! The idea of equivalent fractions is introduced (in isolation) in fourth grade, but the emphasis is on finding equivalent fractions using multiplication.
Because this is a foundational fraction skill, and so important to the understanding of fraction operations, I have used a few different activities to help build equivalent fraction fluency (using both multiers & divisors). Understanding equivalent fractions is very important for our first fraction operations, addition & subtraction with unlike denominators.
Add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators (including mixed numbers) by replacing given fractions with equivalent fractions in such a way as to produce an equivalent sum or difference of fractions with like denominators. For example, 2/3 + 5/4 = 8/12 + 15/12 = 23/12. (In general, a/b + c/d = (ad + bc)/bd.)
At the time, a lot had been going on in our classroom & I wanted to mix things up… to give my students a breath of fresh air (literally & figuratively)! This activity focused on finding equivalent fractions (or the simplified fraction) using division.
Set-Up: Once upon a time, I bought this large bag of those colored balls you used to find in the McDonald’s ball pit. I am pretty sure I bought them to hit off a tee when I was still playing softball, but storing them sure came in handy! I decided on five different simplified fractions, and on each ball I wrote a fraction equivalent to one of those five fractions. The simplified form of the fraction was written on a basket, which was the ball’s home base. I also created a task sheet for my students that had a place to write the ball fraction, the divisor, and what the fraction in simplified form. Then I put my students in partners.
Directions: First, we found an open area on our playground and established each partnership’s work space. Then we established expectations for how students would carry out the task. In short, the fraction balls were scattered on the playground. One person from each partnership would go collect a ball, bring it back to their workspace, & as a team, they would simplify the fraction by identifying a divisor. Then, they would drop the ball in the corresponding basket before the other partner collected another ball. We played quite a few rounds before we went back inside, but students got a lot of movement, practice, & fresh air. They loved it!
Another easy way to get in a lot of equivalent fraction practice is to flip a fraction. Students were put in groups of 2-3 and worked together to write equivalent fraction chains, for the fraction they flipped, using playing cards. I created a sheet where they would record the original fraction, as well as equivalent fractions.
For students who are starting to see and identify equivalent fractions mentally (using multiplication & division), equivalent fraction spoons is a great way to practice. I found a set on TPT that was easy to prep for extensions (print & cut).
I am sure there are a lot of other ways to help students become fluent in creating and identifying equivalent fractions, but different ways work for different students, so having a variety of options is perfect!