Making Ones: activity and game

Here’s something to try at home when your child is first learning about fractions. I would not at all be surprised if you child does some exploring like this at school so our goal here is to have some fun and make learning fractions an adventure!

You will need a few sets (maybe 2 or 3) of fraction strips. Making the fraction strips together, or at least cutting them out, is a great “day 1” activity that will give some hands on introduction and/or practice with understanding fractions as pieces. Frankly, printing and cutting the strips is much, much easier than making them from scratch. I’ve made them from scratch and, as the fractions get smaller, the measuring to create the strips gets more and more complicated! There are lots of free options on the web if you want to try printing and cutting.

Here is an example of what fraction strips look like:

fraction strips

fraction strips

Depending upon the age of your child, you can keep it really simple and just make whole strips, halves, thirds and quarters. As your child gets older and has more exposure to fractions, going all the way to tenths or even higher is great.

So, once you have your colorful strips cut out, start playing with them. This activity is like a puzzle. The challenge: how many ways can you find, using your fraction strips, to make one whole?

Explore…get crazy…notice what works (such as combining one-third and four one-sixth pieces)…notice what doesn’t work (such as combining two-sevenths and one-half and one-fourth). Every time you find a combination that works, celebrate! Take a brief moment to discuss why that combination might have worked.  This is a great opportunity to lead kids to the idea of common denominators and shared factors but it is not necessary to push that because the goal is really to have your child internalize the meaning of one-third as it compares to both one-sixth and one half and so on.

Now how about playing a game? It’s called:  Making One. Here’s how you play using fraction strips and dice:

Put all the cut up fraction strips in a neat-ish pile in the center of a table.

A player or a team of 2 players rolls a dice. Whatever you roll is how many fraction strips you must draw from the pile.  Your goal is to get as close to one whole as you can without going over.

So, if you roll a 1 or a 2, then you’ll want to grab a whole or two halves. If you roll a 5 or a 6, then you’ll want to grab smaller fraction pieces.

Assemble your whole and then play goes to the other team or player.

The first couple rounds will be easy because there will be lots of choices. But then, the pile will start to get picked over. More thought, ingenuity and creativity will need to be used to get close to one whole. So, you might not be able to make a whole on your turn. Then what? Two ways to play: (a) put the strips you drew back and play passes to the next player or team OR (b) keep what you’ve drawn and see if you can combine it with pieces from your next turn. Try it both ways and see which you like best!

Play ends when there are not enough pieces left to make a whole.

Who is the winner? The winner is the player or the team with the most Ones assembled at the end of the game.

Have fun with math every day!