Thoughts on why kids struggle to understand fractions and proportion

You may also like...

11 Responses

  1. JayEssJay says:

    Just found this tonight in looking for resources about teaching how to convert from fractions to decimals. I’ve been struggling to reconcile this in my own head over the last couple of weeks, and I love the way this is stated. Really helps me put a confident foot forward as a teach this concept next week!

  2. John Vane says:

    Jumping one step back, one of the biggest problems is that children are not taught at any stage that a fraction is simply a division in another form and a simple change in nomenclature and symbols could help with that problem. As far as your example goes with the two different pies each cut into six I’m afraid that would be doomed for failure because you’re approaching it from the top down. Why teachers don’t focus on using whole objects like six apples or 12 cars so the fraction becomes 2 rotten apples out of six apples means 2/6 apples are rotten

  3. Bruno Reddy says:


    Interesting commentary, thanks for posting.

    You may find this doc useful – it helped me get my head round the 3 interpretations of a fraction. It’s well written too.

    Fractions Booklet by Rachel McLeod and Barbara Newmarch.


    • Hi Bruno!

      Thanks for this link. I’ve had a read and totally agree with what it’s advocating. I have a low-attaining class this year and they’re doing so well. I’m using lots of kinaesthetic and collaborative strategies and they respond so well compared with ‘skill and drill’ traditional teaching. A great read, thank you.

      Whilst I’m here, could I also personally thank you for your amazing site I use it regularly, particularly your wonderful geometry toolbox. Brilliant. You’ve had a real positive effect on the learning of my pupils and the geometry toolbox is a vital resource when I teach constructions. Thank you!

      Best wishes,


  4. Fawn Nguyen says:

    When elementary teachers ask me what I need the kids to know before they get to me in middle school, grades 6-8, I always say, “Three things: fractions, fractions, and fractions.” Your post is so important because I feel half of my time teaching proportions and converting between fractions and decimals is to UNDO their arithmetic of fractions. (I despise the pie fractions!)

    And thank you for pointing to Mr. Reddy’s site, it’s lovely!

  5. Azadeh says:

    In my opinion, good teacher can help phobia of mathematics. I will not discuss about characteristics a good teacher more, but i think students need a creative teacher. We need to re-examine how we trigger the innovation and interest in Math among the learners. Your method is great. Thanks!

  6. norburyg says:

    Very good reading. I have recently started to introduce the grid method of long multiplication, as the same method can be used in fraction arithmetic (look up nrich activity), expanding brackets and even topics at a-level. Pupils tend to see the method rather than the understanding admittedly, but they feel confident with fractions afterwards.

  7. Trophy1200 says:

    This reminded me of the KS3 National Strategies publication ‘What is a fraction?’

  8. Great post. I’m experiencing a few of these issues as well..

  9. JulieM says:

    I’d definitely agree with you. Without a solid understanding of division, as soon as you meet fractions, you’re going to be stumped. However, for some learners, I think things go even further back- to multiplication. Even though the concept of fractions might have been grasped, calculations such as simplifying and finding lowest common denominators are nigh on impossible without multiplication facts aka times-tables.