MathFileFolderGames Helps Middle-Schoolers Conquer Fractions

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Other than perhaps the opposite gender, nothing so perplexes the middle school student than fractions!

Ordering fractions from least to greatest may strike fear in their hearts, but give them a compare and ordering fractions game, and that fear is greatly diminished, as the students' skills improve.

It's now the 21st century, and the smartphone, personal entertainment device, and tablet computer are very much a part of a middle-schooler's life. Fraction apps installed on those devices now benefit every student. Every teacher who recognizes the number of hours these students spend on these devices knows that if used in an educational context, they can be of great benefit.

MathFileFolderGames.com brings their third app and second fraction app to the classroom, which is a ordering and compare fractions game, a simple game of ordering fractions from least to greatest, one of the most difficult areas of the fraction operations faced by middle school students.

How does it work? Here's an example: The Ordered Fractions game begins with a roll of the dice. Students create fractions by entering numbers to the display board. They may enter the fractions and position them in ascending order by comparing fractions. At any time the students may restart the process. The program offers assistance for enhancing the learning and solidifying the concepts. Teacher intervention is minimal.

We know that students of this age are interested in these devices. Why not use them, well controlled of course, to teach what are otherwise very difficult concepts? The interactive use of iPads, iPods, and iPhones combine gameplay with learning in a familiar and relaxed atmosphere. The app takes students from simple to complex, keeping track of progress. But watch out! The app is "sneaky."

In addition to announcing when the student "gets it right," it also alerts the student about an incorrect answer and then assists toward the correct one. The result is that very quickly the student progresses into the domain of creating common denominators. Each mode provides several increasingly challenging levels and opportunities to practice. And if traditional equations must be produced, the app provides a whiteboard function for the purpose. This system does not supplant the teacher. It must be integrated into the broader math curriculum, but over time the statistics gathered by the app provide an appraisal of the students' progress.

The system can provide useful information for the teacher to tailor classroom activities, and provides also for a greater involvement in perhaps the most interested parties, the parents. But there are other things you should know about these apps: there is no permanent data collection, no advertisements, no within-the-app purchase solicitations, and no social media. Those links that exist are there to pursue the study material. No longer must a student fear fractions.

It's all a game now. It's 2013 and the hand-held computational/communication device is the untapped education resource that will make it happen.

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