I was recently asked to do some more 3 Act Lessons in our 4th grade rooms with fractions! I can’t even say fractions without smiling! I can’t even say 3 Act tasks without smiling! I have to say what I love most about 3 Act math tasks is that our most struggling students not only have an entry point to grade-level material, but they are successful with it. There is nothing like the look on a student’s face who has just proved to him or herself that he/she can be successful in math class AND have fun doing it!
I looked through my usual go-to sites for 3 Act tasks and had already used many of them with students so I did another google search and found a wonderful blog by Kyle Pearce that had many different fraction tasks using Kit Kat bars.
Our students were (like most 4th graders) struggling with the concept of adding fractions with like denominators. They needed a visual representation and they needed time to puzzle with it. I used Kyle’s Task 2 for our first experience. I really liked this task because it could be viewed as fractions with like denominators or structuring to one whole and adding on. So many times, students go right to a procedure instead of taking time to think about the most efficient way to solve a problem and this problem sets that up very nicely. Many students were able to visualize that the two halves could combine to make a whole first and then just add the one fourth. We had tech problems on this one and ended up writing out most of the answers on paper, so unfortunately I don’t have student work pics.
The next lesson was Kyle’s Task 3 in which students had to subtract fractions with like denominators. I really liked this task because it allowed students to visualize mixed numbers and improper fractions by providing a picture of “one whole” in the context of subtracting fourths.
Each student worked with a partner to view and discuss the tasks. This question is one that we asked after watching the first act:
After Act 2, we asked:
We had two correct answers as options and noted that to students. One was in the format of mixed numbers and the other was the improper fractions.
At this point, we had several students who were still struggling with how to represent this situation mathematically. Before moving on to the next question, we let them view the correct answers and wrote them out so they could choose which to solve.
We then had them:
Here are a few responses:
After the reveal, we had volunteers come defend their answers and discuss which strategies they used. Finally, we had students tell us the math:
It’s really easy to gauge which students are on track after the lesson and which are still struggling by their answers and their explanations.
After talking with students during and after the activity, it was apparent that this visual model was a great support for naming fractions both as mixed numbers and improper fractions.
We will definitely use this one again!