Sep 24, 2013 | Granger
Mathnasium in the Wall Street Journal

...Trouble with fractions is the most common reason parents seek math help for their fourth- and fifth-graders, says Larry Martinek, chief instructional officer of Mathnasium Learning Centers, a Los Angeles-based franchiser with 385 U.S. tutoring centers. Many students are confused by the terms often used to describe fractions, such as "common denominator," so tutors offer clearer, more concrete names.

Denominators, for example, are "the name of the fraction," rather than simply "the bottom number," Mr. Martinek says. This helps kids understand why they can't add ½ and 1/3 and get 2/5, he says. Tutors explain, "One apple plus one apple is two apples. One banana plus one banana is two bananas. But one apple plus one banana isn't two banapples."

Zach Bedell did well in math until fifth grade, when multiplying and dividing fractions started "giving him a really hard time," says his mother, Kim, of Martinez, Ga.With 30 students in his math class, the teacher didn't have time to answer all his questions.

Tutors at an Augusta, Ga., Mathnasium helped him understand what fractions meant and how the rules worked, says Ms. Bedell, and Zach, age 11, now scores 98% on average in an advanced sixth-grade math class.