We decided to create a design that would help students better understand fractions and how they relate to whole numbers. As young learners, Kerri and I struggled with the concept of fractions. This included how to add and subtract fractions and conceptualize how many “pieces” would make up a whole. We were inspired by this challenge to create a tool that will allow students to visually understand different types of fractions and how they relate to one another.
Our idea stemmed from the idea of stacking blocks that while similar in size, represented different fractions. We decided to use a circle as we felt this shape would be the easiest for young learners to understand that different fractions, when combined, create new fractions and sometimes whole numbers. We wanted to create five circles that represented different fractions. Each circle will slide onto a base. We felt this would encourage interaction between students and act as a building game while also familiarizing the students with fractions. The first circle of the stack represents one whole circle. The second circle is divided into halves. The third circle is divided into fourths. The fourth circle is divided into sixths. The final circle is divided into eights.
We think this should work from a mathematical learning point of view because it is a great visual aid for students who have difficulty understanding fractions. Students are able to compare and contrast the circles to understand how fractions relate to one another. For instance, a student may observe that three slices of 1/6 are the same as one slice of a 1/2.
The design of our technology reflects our understanding of what mathematics is and of how learning happens as it focuses on the visual aspect of learning fractions. According to Empson and Levi (n.d.) the development of children’s understanding of fractional quantities begins in the processes of creating fractional parts by drawing, cutting, folding, and splitting things and then reflecting on the results (p 22). Young learners understand best when visual representations are accessible to problem solve. Our design helps students compare the size of fractional parts to a whole unit.
For our project to be successful in terms of learning, we would hope that students who use our design would be able to visually understand fractions more easily, work interactively with others, and enjoy building different representations of fractions and numbers. We hope our visual would aid in homework help when students are having difficulty understanding fractions on paper.
We’re hopeful our design will be a successful tool for students to readily use. However, in our initial brainstorm, we had hoped to create an object that would allow students to remove each piece of the circle to play with different combinations of fractions. If a student is unable to visualize multiple representations of fractions at once, this may confuse the student initially. However, our goal is for the student to be able to look at a fraction with multiple parts and understand what each piece means as it relates to the fraction or whole number. Our hope is that the visual aspect of our design will aid in the overall comprehension of fractions.
In regards to testing our design, we thought it would be appropriate to give our model to young members of our family. Jess will allow her nephew (age 8) and Kerri will allow her cousin (age 9) to test out the design. We use observe them interacting with the tool and use their feedback as a form of assessment for understanding. We will also test the design ourselves. Since we both struggled with fractions as young learners, we will use our prior knowledge to determine if the tool is successful in solving fraction related problems. If we are able to clearly understand how fractions relate using our tool, we have successfully completed our task.