Why do so many kids struggle with fractions?

Jul 29, 2018 | Kendall

Many kids fear fractions because they don’t understand how they work – they mix up the parts and don’t understand what they mean and why we use them.  As with all aspects of mathematics, fractions help us describe and communicate about the world around us.




Parents typically understand enough to get by in everyday life (1/2 off sale, 3/4” wrench, 1/4 tank of gas), but sometimes we have a difficult time explaining fractions in a way that helps kids understand. In fact, many of us struggled with fractions as kids ourselves! So it makes sense that we can’t explain it to our kids. (It’s like playing Pictionary, and your team gives you the “blank stare.”)


So let’s start at the beginning:  what is a fraction?

It’s just breaking something whole into smaller equal parts.


When we start working with young students, we talk about the concept of half.  What is half?  What exactly does it mean?  We take for granted the meaning of these words and assume that kids understand them.  But how can we explain the meaning of the word "half" to a 5 year old without using the word “half” itself?  We talk about the concepts of “sharing” and “being fair.” Kids totally get that.


Then we move on to naming the parts of a fraction:  the numerator and the denominator. What are those and what do they mean?   And how if you add 5 nickels and 3 pennies, you don’t get 8 “pickles” or “nennies”…. you get 8 cents.  Because “cents” is a common name for both numbers.


Explaining fractions to kids in a way that makes sense to them is a crucial part of the Mathnasium Method. We break down concepts into the simplest terms and use analogies like these, so your child can understand how and why the concepts work.  For math class this year and for life.




Check out the latest feedback from Miami parents about Mathnasium!  Give us a call and let’s talk about your math goals: (305) 274- 3700.