National assessments consistently show that large numbers of students struggle with fractions from grade 3 onward, effectively reducing their academic and career opportunities. Fortunately, a growing body of academic research is starting to uncover strategies that actually work.
The following summarizes a review of studies on the difficulties with fractions by two leading researchers in the study of learning fractions in: Putting Fractions Together. Braithwaite, D. W., & Siegler, R. S. (2020, March 19). Journal of Educational Psychology.
Whole number bias
The centrality of magnitude
The Integrated Theory of Numerical Development
ExploreLearning Frax—a better way to learn fractions
A few of the key factors in Frax that make a difference:
- In Frax, fractions are numbers first. Each has a specific magnitude (size) and position on the number line alongside whole numbers and other fractions. Students work extensively with length models and number lines to interpret, represent, compare, order, and estimate fractions. In doing so they overcome whole number bias and develop a strong understanding of fraction magnitude.
- Frax demystifies fraction arithmetic. When students understand fractions as numbers they also better understand the arithmetic. They learn how to make sense of fractions operations and can draw connections to their work with whole numbers (e.g. the sum of two fractions must be larger than each individual fraction and therefore the sum of 1/2 + 1/3 can't be 2/5).
- Frax is adaptive and individualized so that students of all ability levels have early and ongoing success. In addition, the Frax online learning system consistently rewards students for both their effort and progress. Students come to understand that if they are willing to put in the work, they really can succeed in learning fractions.
- Frax is game-based and challenges students to perform a variety of tasks that build their fractions skills in a wide range of engaging scenarios. The math games are supported by brief, just-in-time instruction, allowing students to learn largely by doing rather than by watching and listening.