Why kids don’t get fractions

You may have noticed that kids have a few issues with fractions… but sometimes it can be tricky to understand what is going on, particularly when the difficulties only tend to show up on NAPLAN.  Here are a few simple videos and tasks to help you work out where your kids are stuck and why.

Fractions are not about pizzas

Often in lower primary, circles and squares are the main models used to teach fractions.  You can find lots of misconceptions simply by using rectangles instead of circles.  Here are a few simple examples:


Fractions are numbers more often than shapes

Think of a numberline between 0 and 2…

  • Where would 1/2 go?  Most kids put it in the middle of the line, but it can’t be the middle, because that would be one!  1/2 is a number, not just about folding or finding the mid point.  And 1/2 doesn’t go in the middle of every line.
  • Where would 2/3 go?  How about 3/2?  And what would you add to 2/3 to find an answer of 3/2?

If you think about it, on an open number line there are a lot more rational numbers than whole numbers.  And an even scarier thought is the number of irrational numbers!

If you want to find out what your kids really understand, download this diagnostic test from our book, Fixing Misconceptions in Fractions.  We have found that most kids from grade 4-7 don’t actually understand halves and quarters, let alone the rest.

If your kids are ok with fractions, you might want to try our diagnostic test for decimals and percent, or order Fixing Misconceptions in Decimals and Percent.

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