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Why fractions matter

Fraction knowledge in grade 5 uniquely predicts students’ mathematics achievement in high school. This is true even after controlling for other variables like general intellectual ability, proficiency with whole numbers, working memory, and family income and education levels.1

This means that many students who struggle with fractions will go on to struggle in Algebra and in turn become less likely to progress to more advanced coursework. This effectively cuts them off from the many careers in which mathematical skills are important—including in high-demand STEM fields.

How are we doing?

In short, not well. Performance with fractions has been a weak point in U.S. education for decades and has not improved in recent years.

In a recent national survey of 1,000 Algebra 1 teachers, most rated students’ knowledge of fractions as “poor” and rated fractions as the second greatest barrier to students mastering algebra (second only to word problems).2

As an example, in 1978, less than one-fourth of a nationally representative sample of 20,000 8th graders could answer this question on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): What number is 12/13 + 7/8 closest to? (Answer choices: 1, 2, 19, 21, I don’t know)? The most common answers were 19 and 21. Nearly 40 years later, the results had barely changed.3

“Knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational [math] skill not currently developed among American students.”

- National Mathematics Advisory Panel

Build a strong foundation in math with ExploreLearning

At ExploreLearning, we believe that all students can succeed in mathematics given the right tools and instruction. That’s why we are laser-focused on solving the most impactful and intractable challenges in elementary mathematics. Our aim: help students learn the concepts and skills that if not mastered will most critically affect their future academic achievement and career opportunities.

First, we took on the problem of math fact fluency, another major road block and strong predictor of downstream mathematics achievement. The result, ExploreLearning Reflex, combines research-based instructional methods with an adaptive, game-based approach to meet students where they are. Reflex has helped millions of students master their math facts, removing a major obstacle to their future success.

Now, we are ready to do the same for fractions with ExploreLearning Frax. We are taking the latest research and embedding it into an adaptive game-based experience to create a more effective, more fun way to learn fractions.

Stop the fractions struggle

“The shift in knowledge from my students who were really behind is surprising. Frax really worked to patch really big fundamental holes. —Teacher, Texas

  1. Early predictors of high school math achievement. Siegler, R.S., …Chen, M. (2012). Psychological Science, 23(7), 691-697.

  2. Final Report on the National Survey of Algebra Teachers for the National Math Panel. Hoffer, T.B, Venkataraman, L., Hedberg, E. C., Shagle, S. (2007). National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago..

  3. Fractions: Where It All Goes Wrong. Siegler, Robert S. (2017). Scientific American (online).

  4. Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). U.S. Department of Education.