Breaking bread to teach fractions and division

28th March 2014 at 00:00

It all started when Elizabeth brought eight brioches to share among the class. I decided to take the opportunity to teach the students a maths lesson.

"Elizabeth has brought brioches to share," I announced. "How can we share the eight brioches between the 21 of you evenly?"

I asked the students to write or draw their solutions. They mostly started with as many pieces as they could make from one brioche and then proceeded to the next one. Some drew portions of different sizes while others drew identical pieces. I set them a deadline of 24 hours to complete the work.

The next day we were a student short, so the total became 20 children. Each group presented their adjusted diagrams and the rest of the class commented on them.

Group one suggested that four of the brioches should be divided into four, and the other four divided into five. "That's too many!" the class shouted.

Group two suggested that all the brioches should divided into four. "That's still too many!" the class said.

Group three suggested that each brioche should be divided into three and the class decided that this was probably the best solution.

Aurelie and Leah, however, had another idea. They suggested giving everyone two pieces by dividing five brioches into four and then dividing the three brioches that were left into eight pieces.

"Two pieces can be given to each child and we still have four pieces left over for the teachers," they announced.

Everyone agreed that this was the best option. And at last they got to eat the snack.

Situations like this don't happen often. The children learned a lot and they were engaged. It was a meaningful maths and language lesson that helped them to understand division, fractions and sharing equally.

Connections between curriculum expectations and real-life situations create meaningful learning. And they are also a lot of fun.

Dini Lallah is a teacher at Clavis International Baccalaureate Primary School in Mauritius

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