Teaching fractions in the primary grades can be quite the challenge. Oftentimes, students don’t recognize fractions as numbers. Instead, they view them as symbols learned in previous years when an object was shaded into equal parts. They might even look at them as something completely new and foreign. If you’re looking for fractions on a number line activities to help your students grasp this concept, read on for 4 effortless activities that won’t break the bank.
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What Are Fractions On a Number Line?
Fractions on a number line is a visual way to represent fractions. Research suggests that utilizing number lines can effectively illustrate for students that fractions are indeed numbers.
When showing fractions on a number line, you are essentially plotting the fraction to show where the distance between two numbers is divided into equal parts. The number of equal parts in a section is the denominator of the fraction.
In this blog post, I’m sharing 4 effortless fractions on a number line activities to help deepen student understanding. Want to see these activities in action? Watch my Fractions on a Number Line YouTube video below.
Showing Fractions On a Number Line with Fraction Bars
When it comes to introducing something new, such as showing fractions on a number line, I always try to introduce it with a concrete representation. If you read my blog post about using the CPA Approach in mathematics, you may remember that students learn best when they move through these learning stages:
- Concrete learning with manipulatives and hands-on exploration.
- Pictorial learning with visual representations.
- Abstract learning with mental math and algorithms.
In 3rd grade, students should have a strong grasp on using a number line as well as what a fraction is. However, they may have never seen the two put together.
To teach the concept of fractions on a number line, I like to bring in another familiar tool to aid in the concrete learning process, and that is fraction bars!
Fraction bars give students both a visual and hands-on way to work with and manipulate fractions. Each of the 4 fractions on a number line activities I’m sharing in this post uses fraction bars as a learning tool.
You can find my favorite fraction bars here in my Amazon store or grab the printable version in my 3rd grade fractions guided math unit.
Fractions on a Number Line Activities
You may not think that there are many ways to practice fractions on a number line. However, with a little creativity and some handy math tools, there are several effortless and hands-on ways to practice this skill.
Fractions on a Number Line Work Mat
For this fractions on a number line activity, your students need just a few simple things.
- A set of fraction bars. If you don’t have enough for each student to have their own, you can pair students up, put them in groups, or use this printable set.
- A blank number line work mat. You can create this on your own or grab it in my 3rd grade fractions unit.
- A pencil and different colored crayons to write and draw with.
To set the stage, ask students to think about whether or not they think that an open number line could be a fraction. This gets them thinking critically and looking for possible ways that fractions could be represented on a number line.
Some students will probably automatically say no while others might look at the fraction bars and see the possibility.
After having a mathematical discussion as a class, explain that a number line can be represented as a fraction because the distance between 0 and 1 on the number line is one whole. This is just like the way that a fraction represents equal parts of a whole.
To guide their thinking, have students look at their halves fraction bars and ask them how they could mark one whole on their number line. Then, ask them how they think they could determine the answer. It’s a good practice to give students time to think and explore this concept first to see if they can find the answer.
Using their 1/2 tiles, have students place them along the number line. Then, they will trace the tiles along the number line with their pencils or crayon. Have them label each tile with 1/2 and add tick marks where the fraction bars start and end.
In this example, the whole is made up of halves, so students would label each tick mark with 0, 1/2, and 2/2 (or 1 whole).
This fractions on a number line activity allows students to visually see that fractions make up a whole on a number line.
You can repeat this activity several times using different fraction bars to explore various fractions with different denominators.
To give students an option to keep this activity in their interactive notebooks, they can cut around the work mat and glue it into their notebook, which will also be helpful when learning about equivalent fractions later on.
Linking Cube Fractions on a Number Line
Another effortless way to practice showing fractions on a number line is to use linking cubes. For this activity, students will need a set of fraction task cards, a tub of linking cubes in various colors, and a white board with a dry erase marker.
To begin, show students a fraction task card. They will gather the correct amount of cubes in one color to match the numerator. Then, they will add a second color to their cubes to create the bottom number, which is the denominator.
Have them lay their cubes down and trace the length to create a number line. Instruct students to draw tick marks where each cube connects to one another. Then, they’ll label their number line with fractions.
As students complete this activity, which is perfect for small groups, ask them questions such as what fraction of their cubes are represented by a certain color. In this example, ⅝ of the cubes are blue and ⅜ of the cubes are yellow.
Once your students understand that fractions are indeed numbers shown on a number line, they are ready to move on to plotting fractions on a number line, composing fractions, and comparing them.
Practicing Fractions on a Number Line
Once you’ve introduced the concept of fractions on a number line with various hands-on activities and concrete manipulatives, students can begin practicing this concept with other types of activities and moving on to independent practice.
Fractions on a Number Line Interactive Notebook Activity
Using interactive notebooks in your math lessons is a great way for students to show what they know during independent practice. This Fractions on a Number Line interactive notebook activity allows students to practice showing fractions on a number line and plotting fractions.
They can use fraction bars to help them solve. This is also an effective activity to help students begin to understand and see equivalent fractions. Students can look back on this activity for reference later on as well.
Plotting Fractions Task Cards and Work Mats
As students begin to grasp the concept of fractions on a number line, it’s important for them to begin plotting various fractions on a number line. Over time, they’ll be able to do this without using hands-on fraction bars. However, in the beginning, they can use fraction bars to help them solve.
For this effective and simple activity, students will flip a fraction task card and find the number line on the work mat that represents that number of equal parts. Then they will use their knowledge or fraction bars to plot the fraction shown.
You can make your own fraction task cards and work mats or grab them in my 3rd grade fractions unit.
Fractions on a Number Line Lesson Plans
I hope these 4 effortless fractions on a number line activities help your students rock this concept and master fractions in 3rd grade. For more fraction lessons, games, interactive notebook activities, and more, check out my fractions guided math units for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade below. You can also shop them in my TPT store.
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CHECK OUT THESE FRACTION UNITS!
Need more ideas for teaching fractions? Check out these blog posts for read aloud ideas, tips, activities, and more!
- 3 Practical Activities to Make Teaching Numerator and Denominator Less Tricky
- Teacher-Tested Strategies for Introducing Equal and Unequal Parts to Primary Students
- 11 Books About Fractions
- Hands-on Fraction Activities for 2nd Grade
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