Fractions are to maths what spelling is to English - the fundamental building blocks to the whole subject. Discussing fractions, and playing games that involve them, are the best ways to get children off to a flying start in mathematics.

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** Fractions**. The word may sound complex, but understanding fractions is crucial for primary school children. Let's explore why this subject is vital and why investing quality time in it during a child's early years can bring significant benefits. To begin, watch our brief video below where Alison explains how fractions are present in our daily lives. Then, we'll provide some strategies to make fractions more accessible for young learners.

The term *fraction* is used in various contexts to denote a small part or proportion of something. In mathematical terms, it refers to a numerical quantity that is not a whole number (e.g., ^{1}⁄_{2}, 0.5). It's essential to focus on the precise definition provided by the Oxford Dictionary:

*Fraction (noun) - a numerical quantity that is not a whole number (e.g. ^{1}⁄_{2}, 0.5)*

It's crucial to understand that 1, 58, 250, and 999 are all whole numbers, whereas what we're discussing here is a **PROPORTION** of something larger.

Fractions are to mathematics what spelling is to English – fundamental building blocks. Reading to children is well-documented as the best grounding in English, but discussing fractions and engaging in fraction-based games are equally effective ways to give children a strong start in mathematics.

A fraction is a numerical quantity that is not a whole number.

Mathematics revolves around the relationships between numbers, often relying on fractions. Our challenge is to remove the fear associated with the topic, guiding children from simple concepts like halves (^{1}⁄_{2}) to more complex ideas like E = MC^{2}!

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The first fraction children usually encounter is a half. Sharing a chocolate bar equally is a good introduction to numeric relationships – your elder brother gets exactly the same amount as you!

Take advantage of these early encounters with fractions. When dividing anything into two equal parts, avoid generic terms like "parts" or "portions" – explicitly use the term *Half*.

The next step is demonstrating the more complex concept of a quarter. Divide a chocolate bar into two equal parts and then each of those into two equal parts. It's crucial for the child to see four portions of **EQUAL** size, each known as a quarter.

Understanding halves and quarters can begin before proficiency in counting to 10. Look for real-life opportunities to showcase these concepts. Your child will become accustomed to evaluating quantity relationships and start understanding fractions long before encountering the dreaded term!

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With your assistance, your child will likely begin learning to count between the ages of 2 and 5. When confident with numbers up to 10, introduce the concept of parts of a whole. Show examples and ask them to identify fractions – the part of a whole circle that is coloured, for example. Encourage them to articulate fractions like *Half, Quarter, Third, Five-eighths*.

Patience is crucial at this stage. As adults, we easily visualize fractions and their representation of portions, but we must remember how challenging these concepts were for us as children.

Play with fractions in various ways. Whenever items are grouped, divide them into two sections and ask children to identify the proportion of the whole in each section, e.g., *a third* and *two thirds*. Use anything at hand – pens, marbles, conkers, sweets, business cards, screws – the more varied, the better. This way, you'll teach the child that proportions and fractions apply to almost anything.

From KS2 onwards, fractions wiill be fundamental to children's understanding of mathematics but they are particularly important for the key milestones of 11-Plus and GCSEs. The sooner a child starts coming to grips with the concepts of "parts of a whole" the better. Let's be honest, children seldom regard fractions as the most riveting school subject but we like to think that our quizzes make the subject a little more bearable!

All the previous work focused on conceptualizing fractions; the next step is learning to write them. Show the child more fraction examples (e.g., a circle with one-third coloured) and ask them to write it down. For instance, if you show them two boxes, one coloured, explain that as there are two boxes, 'two' is the 'bottom part' of the fraction. Only one box is coloured, so 'one' goes in the top half of the fraction. Clarify that 1 over 2 is how we represent a half. Repeat this for quarters and thirds.

Explaining mathematical concepts is logical and easier than explaining linguistic anomalies like the 'k' in 'knife.' However, grasping these concepts takes time. Starting the process of teaching fractions early increases the likelihood of your child excelling in maths.

For further reading, you might want to explore the authoritative article on Teaching Fractions with Understanding: Part-Whole Concept.

Use everyday objects, such as a chocolate bar, pizza, or playing cards, to explain fractions.

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