With most children in the country not currently attending school, and instead learning from home without the benefit of qualified, specialist teacher and resources, it’s no surprise just what a slog both parents and kids are finding it. Maths is one of the subjects that can cause the most distress; so many kids claim they’re rubbish at it and can’t do it, and with the best will in the world, parents are often not equipped to help their children either. As daft as it sounds, maths methodologies have changed massively since lots of us were at school and it’s so easy to confuse children even further with explanations that don’t match with what teachers are teaching.
I have always thought that a hands-on approach to maths is much better than simply following instructions. It gives kids an opportunity to actually understand what numbers and functions are doing, and once they can do that, they can spot what does and doesn’t make sense, see patterns and really make sense of maths. Fractions, decimals and percentages are one aspect of maths that children can find particularly challenging. Their natural instinct is to assume that because the denominator (bottom number of the fraction) is getting bigger, the slice must be getting bigger. And why doesn’t 3/5 + 4/6 = 7/11? Explaining these concepts without resources isn’t easy, and explaining them with resources that aren’t accurate is even worse; you can end up inadvertently ‘proving’ that 3/5 is bigger than 4/6.
It’s well worth investing in some good quality educational resources for at home, not just for the current lockdown situation but also to have to hand to help the kids with homework as they go through school, and in out house, we have always loved Learning Resources products. We were recently sent a set of Double-Sided Magnetic Demonstration Rainbow Fraction® Circles to try out, which couldn’t have come at a better time!
The Rainbow Fraction Circles came packaged in a sturdy, reusable storage box which contains nine colour-coded 7” / 18cm magnetic circular fraction sets along with a small activity guide. Each fraction set is a different colour, and the set contains 1 whole, halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths, eighths, tenths and twelfths, each divided into perfectly sized wedges. The wedges are double-sided, with one side showing the fraction value and the other side showing the equivalent percentage value. The pieces feel substantial, robust and are a good weight, and are magnetic on both sides. We have a magnetic whiteboard by the kitchen table that up until lockdown was used for shopping lists, but is now used for home learning, and the fraction circles have been perfect for it.
The activity guide contains a couple of sample activities around equivalences and converting between fractions, decimals and percentages, which I thought my eight-year-old would find really useful. She is currently working on fractions at school, and she understands fractions meaning part of a whole and that fractions are another way of expressing percentages and decimals. She is reasonably confident with halves, quarters and wholes but much less so with thirds, fifths, sixths etc., so it was my hope that using these fraction circles would let her physically see how the fractions relate to one another and even begin to manipulate them to solve simple fraction additions and subtractions.
We started looking at equivalences, and how two quarters was actually the same size as one half. Having the accurate, physical resources to hand was incredibly helpful for both me and my daughter, as she was able to satisfy herself that they were indeed equivalents. She then set about finding other equivalents and had a great time investigating matches that she could make. We were also able to use the opportunity and our findings to talk about what we notice about some of the numbers: 1/3 is the same as 2/6, and if you divide the 2 and the 6 by 2, you get 1/3 – we were cancelling down fractions without realising it!
The pieces also work brilliantly well as magnetic flashcards. The double-sided fractions and decimals are great as a challenging calculation game. We talked about a percentage as being ‘out of a hundred’ and looked at converting fractions to percentages. So, for 1/5, I showed my daughter to divide 100 by the denominator to get 20, which is actually 20%. From there, once we had checked that that calculation was correct, working out 3/5 as a percentage was intuitive because she could physically see the three fifth pieces, so she immediately suggested we needed to multiply 20% by three to get 60%. Working on converting to decimals helped her to more clearly see, for example, that 3/5 (60%) is indeed smaller than 4/6 (66.6%).
We think these Rainbow Fraction Circles are fantastic, both in terms of the quality and sturdiness of the products and how useful they are for the kids to use. I have an eleven-year-old as well as my eight-year-old, and she has also used them to help her with some of her maths home learning too. Products like this aren’t necessarily something that you will use with the kids every day, but they are something that will make the days that you do need to use them so much easier! They really do help to cement understanding, especially for kids who learn by doing, rather than just being told. A really easy 5/5 (that’s the same as 10/10, 2/2, 100/100 or 100%!)
For more information or to buy, visit www.learningresources.co.uk.