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Monday, May 13, 2013

No Prep Differentiated Fraction Game

This morning I was working with some fifth graders who needed some intervention in the area of fractions.  The Common Core has a great deal of expectations for fifth graders around conceptual understanding of fractions and fraction operations.  I grabbed my 2 sided counters to create a quick game for these intervention students.  After about 20 minutes, I had the intervention students join the other students and we invented level 2 and level 3 of the same game to work on fraction operations.  I love low prep games that get kids working on important concepts without requiring the teacher to spend hours prepping materials.  Kids make their own record sheets!!  You can get your whole class started on level 1 and then introduce levels 2 and 3 as pairs need.  Or pick just one level if your kids are in a specific place!

For all levels
-Play in pairs or groups of 3
- Each pair/group needs 12 2 sided counters
- Each person needs a piece of scrap paper or a small whiteboard and a pencil or marker
- Each game has 5 rounds. If pairs/groups finish one game and were fluent, move them onto the next level, otherwise have them play another game at their current level.

Level 1

The kids who needed more work really needed some more conceptual development around equivalent fractions.   Here is a look at a record sheet from round 1

Shake the counters in a small cup and drop them.   Sort into red and yellow. Record as many equivalent fractions that you can find  using the counters.  We made the rule that you couldn't split the counters into pieces therefore the largest denominator possible was 12.  When both partners are done round 1, switch record sheets.  Check your partner's fractions.  If you agree with them, circle them.  One point is scored for each correct fraction.  The winner is the person with the most points at the end.

I love level 1 for 4th graders and intervention/early 5th graders because it can be very hands on and there is a great deal of visual support.  Take a look

This student is proving to their partner how 4/12 is the same as 1/3 by moving and re-grouping the counters

Now the same pair is showing how 4/12 is also equal to 2/6 by moving and re-grouping the counters
Now if you change the number of counters in this game, think about all the different equivalent fraction practice kids would get!  Changing the number of counters is a great way to keep the game fresh.  It would make a great math center!

Level 2

The fifth graders are also working on adding fractions.  For level 2 I had them each take 5 turns and record one fraction each time.  Then they had to find the sum of the 5 fractions they rolled.  This was great because even though the recorded some in twelfths, some in thirds, some in halves, etc, they had just practiced finding equivalent fractions and were able to quickly convert between equivalent fractions in order to find the sum of 5 different fractions.  Take a look at a record sheet from level 2

I loved that they were finding the sum of 5 different fractions and that the sum often went over 1 and sometimes even over 2.  It was a great way to practice (with hands on materials as a back-up) a lot of the skills that fifth graders are required to have.  Each student played several games on level 2.   

Level 3

This level was for my advanced students and some students who had been exposed further to fraction operations.  They had to shake and drop the 12 counters and figure out what fraction of the counters were red.  Then then had to come up with equations that equaled that number.  In round 1, they had 1 equation, round 2 required 2 different equations all the way up to round 5 which had 5 different equations.  I LOVED this version because they had the answer and had to come up with the problem.  Depending on their comfort level, the equations varied quite a bit in complexity and uniqueness.  Here is a peak at 2 different record sheets from this level.

A record sheet from level 3.  Notice each equation got circled as their partner checked it.  The partner circling the equation meant that they agreed

Another record sheet from level 3
I love activities like this!  No prep required, minimal materials and completely differentiated to meet kids below, on and above grade level.  The best part is that the kids really think everyone is playing the same game.  Because the materials are the same and some of the rules, they don't see how much they vary in difficulty.  This series of games will become a math center during Guided Math time later in the week!

How do you differentiate learning for your kids?

If you want to see how I use these same counters with K-2 kids, check out this post or this one


  1. I love working with fractions with a dozen--it works really well with egg carton math. I have made two posts about it during the last month. nice to find another math fanatic : )
    Kids Math Teacher

    1. Hi Lucy,
      I also love fractions with a dozen. My students have used egg cartons, clocks and rulers in fourth and fifth grade but level 1 was a great way to revisit that with kids who needed it. Can't wait to check out your blog!

  2. I am ready to use this game with my son. We are practicing fractions this summer, in preparation for the new school year's math curriculum (which is fraction-heavy). Thank you for sharing this game, and for adding the levels of complexity (very important for a classroom of diverse learners).

    1. Hi Evie,
      Thanks for the lovely comment! I am so glad you are able to use this with your son. It is a great game to work on conceptual development. Hope he has a successful year!

  3. I am teaching third grade and would love some ideas on helping mine understand fractions better.

    1. I would recommend you read A Focus on Fractions. It is a great book full of research and interesting ideas. It also demonstrates how to use formative assessment to uncover misconceptions.

  4. This is an amazing idea. I could see the 4th to 7th graders at our school really using this activity to get those fraction skills in check.
    Thank you.

  5. I love the first idea. I can even use this with some of my 3rd graders. No prep, just the way I like it. :)
    Daisy Fryer at Not Your Mother's Math Class