Show What You Know

One of my favorite math activities is to ask students to show me why math works they way it does. There is no better way to get to conceptual understanding – and beyond procedural knowledge – than having students explain and show how math works. This is a great idea to keep in mind during school closings. Students could show what they know using a variety of online tools.

My daughter is in fifth grade. She’s been working on multiplying fractions. So I asked her today to show me why the product of two fractions is less than either of the factors. I purposefully used academic vocabulary in the prompt – product and factor.

This was the prompt I wrote on the whiteboard in my daughter’s room today: Show me why the product of 2 fractions is less than each of the 2 factors.

I let her think about the prompt first. Then I asked her if there was anything she needed clarify or if there were any questions she had. Her first question: Do I need to use any particular fractions? No. Do I have to show it a certain way? Can you tell me more about “a certain way?” Can I use fraction circles OR fraction bars? You can use any visual model that works for you.

There were other questions like this as she worked through the problem. This one activity gave me more insight into her understanding of fractions than if I had given her 10 multiple choice questions related to multiplying fractions.

It’s such a simple activity but the results are so powerful.

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