The fractions unit in one of the most critical math focuses in 3rd grade. Students should come to third grade with a basic understanding of fractions of a shape based on 2nd grade geometry standards. But, in 3rd grade, students are introduced to fractions and quickly move into other key fraction standards: fractions on a number line, comparing and equivalent fractions, mixed numbers, and fractions greater than 1. The foundations laid in 3rd grade are built upon in 4th and 5th grades as students move to multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals and percents. It’s critical that students build a deep understanding of fractions and what they represent so they have a strong foundation for later years. These hands-on fraction activities have been must-haves in my 3rd grade classroom over the last several years.
Please note: all fraction resources featured here focus on fractions of a shape and fractions on a number line. Fractions of a set are not covered. This is intentional as fractions of a set are ratios rather than fractional parts of whole numbers.
Hands-On Fractions Strips
Commercially purchased fractions strips are widely available and there’s nothing wrong with using them. However, I’ve found that my students use them without building an understanding of what each piece of the strip represents. They become a cheat sheet, almost, or a crutch. Instead, I have students make their own during our first fractions lesson. I introduce our fractions unit by having students create their own fractions strips and turning them into a reference poster. This one, hands-on lesson lays the foundation for our fractions unit.
During this fraction introduction, students explore sizes of denominators to compare fractions and explore equivalence. Because students create each unit fraction themselves, and use one strip to represent the whole, key foundational concepts to understanding fractions are established. The fraction strips can also be used to represent fractions on a number line by adding the number line below. The reference poster can continue to be used as a tool throughout the rest of the fractions unit. This hands-on fractions introduction lesson will make all the difference in your fractions unit and it’s detailed for you in the linked post!
Math Learning Center Apps
I rely on the Fractions and Number Lines Apps from the Math Learning Center so often during our fractions unit! These quick tools allow me to display and manipulate circles and rectangles for fractions of a shape, and use number lines to explore fractions less than, equal to, and greater than 1. Both are very customizable so you can use them in a variety of your lessons. Each app is available as a web app you can link to (and link to precreated versions) and is available as an app for Chrome and iOS. I’ll do my best to detail how I use each tool, but spend some time exploring each of them yourself!
The Fractions App gives you a blank slate to begin. Using the toolbar on the bottom, you choose whether to use a rectangle or a circle and then you choose the amount of parts in the shape. Once the shape is displayed on the screen, you can select to have the fraction displayed as you add shading to the parts of the whole. This tool is perfect for giving visual models of fractions of a shape and allowing students to explore fractions. It’s also great for visual models when comparing fractions or determining equivalence. Students can build two shapes of the same size as they work independently. Or, you can use the tool during your lessons.
The Number Lines app allows you to choose the spacing on your line and whether or not you want numbers and fractions displayed. Without numbers, it’s virtually an open number line that can be used for any part of your lesson. If you choose to display the fraction, you can select the denominator up to 12.
The masking tool allows you to display only specific numbers. By clicking on one of the blue boxes, that number will be displayed. The jump tool shows the movement from one hash to the next. The unit fraction for each jump can be turned on or off.
I have only ever used the web version of both of these apps but I find them invaluable during my fractions unit. I also use the number line app during our measurement unit when we’re measuring to the nearest quarter-inch.
Digital 3rd Grade Fractions Resources
I teach my math lesson in two different rotations, allowing me to differentiate my instruction and provide differentiated scaffolding. You can read more detail in my Math Block Structure post. When students are not with me, it’s crucial that they are engaging in high-quality, standards-based practice. I utilize a variety of websites like Moby Max, Freckle, and Khan Academy to give my students ongoing practice at their independent and instructional levels. I also utilize those websites for intentional standards-based practice. But I also use my digital lessons and digital task cards to give students specific standards-based independent practice. This allows me to have a better look at what students complete independently and what they still need support in.
After we’ve spent a couple days working through the standard together, I assign my digital lesson. The digital lesson walks through the skill from concrete representations to more abstract concepts like word problems. Students read lesson information, explore content specific vocabulary, and apply their learning to word problems. These digital lessons reinforce the same content I’m teaching within my instruction.
On another day, students complete digital task cards on the standard. The task cards give students independent practice of the skill in its most typical formats. As a teacher, I love that I can quickly assess students’ understanding of the skill by spending just a quick minute going through their work.
I typically do not assess my students’ mastery of the standard until a full week after I taught it- in short, the Friday following the week of instruction. This allows me to continue to support and reteach those students that need additional practice. It’s also during this second week that I send homework on this particular skill. I like to send homework when students should be able to complete the work relatively independently. To guide my support during this second week, I give my Google Forms quiz at the end of the first week- often on the same day I assign the task cards. Because most of the form is self-grading, I can spend my time planning my reteaching instruction for the following week.
Each of these 3 components are available in my Digital Fractions Resources. The bundle includes units for each of the fractions skills and standards: understanding fractions and unit fractions, fractions on a number line, fractions greater than one (sometimes referred to as improper fractions), whole numbers as fractions, comparing fractions, and equivalent fractions. The bundle is broken into 3 files based on the standards. You can check it out by clicking the image below.
3rd Grade Fractions Assessments
Throughout the year, I spiral back to standards to continue to check in on students’ mastery. I’ve found that after we’ve moved on from a skill, some students forget some things without ongoing exposure. There’s also those kids that don’t master it the first time that need continued instruction and practice. I use my 3rd Grade Fractions Assessments in Google Forms as both a formative assessment tool and as continued practice throughout the year. I love to assign these on e-learning days (we have several scheduled throughout the year and then also for snow days). It doesn’t take students very long, they get immediate feedback, and it’s easy for me to quickly grade the open-ended portions. I can then use the results to form reteaching groups.
My 3rd Grade Fractions Assessments include two Google Forms for each standard- perfect for pre and post assessments or as an assessment or spiraled practice later in the year. It also includes 4 Google Forms that review all of the fractions standards on each Form. These are the versions I use most often for spiral review practice.
With versions for each fractions skill and standard, and for spiral review, these Google Forms assessments are my go-to’s throughout the year!
Fractions of a Shape Game
5 in a Row is a fun, fast paced game that students literally BEG to play! In this free Fractions of a Shape game, students identify the fraction represented in the given shape and match it on their game boards. You can adjust the timing of the game to give students more or less time to play. 5 in a Row keeps kids engaged with its speed. Because it’s self-running, you have a quick second to check an email or manage the paper stack on your desk. To play, all you need is Powerpoint! Students play on printed gameboards (you choose to laminate and reuse or not). You launch the slideshow, click a button to randomize the slides, and push start. That’s it! you can download my free Fractions of a Shape 5 in a Row by clicking the image below.
You may also be interested in my Fractions & Mixed Numbers on a Number Line 5 in a Row! 4 different versions are included to provide and remove scaffolding.
Pizza Pandas from Arcademics
If you aren’t familiar with Arcademics.com, formerly known as Arcademic Skill Builders, you should take a few minutes to explore it! They offer individual and group based online games for a variety of skills. Pizza Pandas is a fun, fast paced game that has students matching fractions into pizza representations of fractions of a shape. This would be a fun and engaging game to add to your small groups since students could play against each other live.
Fractions on a Number Line Song from NUMBEROCK
NUMBEROCK has a multitude of math songs available for a variety of grade levels and math standards. There are several videos that would work well with your fractions unit, but my personal favorite fractions resource is their Fractions on a Number Line song. It’s catchy and my students love singing it as they work with fractions on a number line. You can watch Fractions on a Number Line, and so many of their other videos, on their YouTube channel. They also have the video hosted on Vimeo for easy sharing, along with lyrics and other helpful information, on the NUMBEROCK site.
Fractions Task Cards
I love to use task cards in my classroom. One of my favorite ways is Musical Solve. I put task cards up around the room, put on some fun music, and have the kids walk from card to card. I put extras up in the room so there’s typically a buffer if a kid stops at one they’ve already done before. I’ve also seen people do this on the kids’ desks but I usually use spaces around the room or just a desk corner. In all of my 3rd grade Mustache You Task Cards, I include 36 cards. This allows for larger class sizes while still giving a few cards that are available to be done whole group. These 3.NF.1 Fractions of a Shape Task Cards are free in my TpT store. Just click to head over and download them!
I also have Fractions on a Number Line task cards. It includes 3 sets: 1) identifying the fraction given on a number line; 2) partitioning a number line and locating the fraction; 3) fractions greater than 1 on a number line. Throughout the sets, students will also have practice working with whole numbers as fractions. As with my Fractions of a Shape task cards, each of the sets has 36 cards making it perfect for practice throughout several days, or as both a whole group guided practice and independent practice activity. You can get my Fractions on a Number Line Task Cards by clicking the image below.
Find is a powerful formative assessment tool during your fractions unit. And, it’s quick and easy to implement. Give students an open number line with one given fraction. Ask them to find another. What that other fraction is, however, is where the power of Find comes in. The number lines aren’t partitioned so students have to reason through where the fraction should go. The difficultly of Find can be adjusted based on where you are in your unit: identifying fractions on a number line, or when working with mixed numbers and/or fractions greater than one. Fractions on a Number Line is one of the hardest part of our fractions unit in 3rd grade, and Find really helps me hone in on where students need support. It also gives you an indication of their number sense. To take things a step further, ask students to explain their reasoning on either the bottom or the back of the task card. You’ll get valuable information on their thinking which will help you adjust your instruction as you teach.
You can download a set of 10 pages of Find Task Cards for free by filling out the form below. The task cards will be sent after you confirm your email.
These 3rd grade fractions resources help my students master fractions each year. Use any of these fraction activities in your classroom? I’d love to hear what you like best in the comments!