Saturday, 07 January 2012 17:45

Fraction Creatures (Part 1) (1st in an Occasional Series Featuring Engaging Classroom Projects) (Teaching Tip #54)

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Before winter break I posted a six-part series on the Math Problem Solving Menus my students work on after they finish the primary math activity of the day. In February, when we begin our Fractions unit, we put the menus aside for a couple weeks, and when my students complete their primary activity, they move directly to their Fraction Creatures.

Student enthusiasm for this project is as high as it is for any project we do all year, and it provides the children with an authentic opportunity to grapple with many of the skills featured in our unit: comparing fractions, finding equivalent fractions, adding fractions with unlike denominators, and determining simplest form. The artistic aspect of the project fosters creativity and promotes the habit of craftsmanship.


We create Fraction Creatures by using pattern blocks, and you may need to borrow a bunch from a colleague or two because each student will need quite a few of these pieces. The project begins with the understanding that a yellow pattern block represents one whole hexagon. A red piece is one half of a hexagon, a blue is one third, and a green is one sixth. The orange squares and tan parallelograms are not used in this project because they do not represent an easy-to-determine fraction of a hexagon.

The specific steps involved in creating these creatures are listed below. Next week I will share pictures of some of the creatures my students have made.

The Steps Required to Create a Fraction Creature

1) Arrange pieces to make one connected creature. (Many kids like to create cute animal creatures, while others choose to make scary, fantasy monsters. This choice belongs to the students, and it is one of the main reasons the kids enjoy the project so much.)

2) Trace each piece carefully with pencil.

3) Label each fraction piece with pencil.

4) Color each piece beautifully with colored pencil. (This is where the habit of craftsmanship comes into play.)

5) Outline all pieces in thin black marker.

6) Trace over the labeled pieces in black marker.

7) Add your pieces together on the bottom of your paper to determine the total number of hexagons needed to make your unique creature. Be sure to label your answer.

8) Cut out your creature, give it a name, and mount it on a construction paper background.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.