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3 Practical Activities to Make Teaching Numerator and Denominator Less Tricky

When teaching students about fractions, the concept of numerator and denominator can be tricky for them to grasp. However, it’s essential that students understand these mathematical terms in order to fully understand and apply fraction skills moving forward. In this blog post, I’m sharing 3 of my favorite, practical activities to use to make teaching numerator and denominator less tricky for your primary students. 

numerator and denominator activities

How to Hook Students into Your Numerator and Denominator Lessons

One of my favorite things about teaching is watching students’ eyes light up when they are excited to learn something new. I love to hook my students into a lesson, especially when introducing a new skill such as fractions, by telling them that they are about to learn something super fun, like the big, fancy words of numerator and denominator.

I love watching them light up in curiosity and eagerness to learn what these words mean and what this new skill is all about. 

To get their wheels turning, I ask them what they think these words mean. This leads to a meaningful mathematical discussion about fractions, parts of a fraction, and what the words numerator and denominator mean.

Once they are hooked into the lesson, I like to use 3 practical, yet engaging activities to help them master this concept. Read on to check them out or check them out in my YouTube video below!

What is a Fraction? 

Before you dive into numerator and denominator discussions with your students, it’s important for them to understand what a fraction is. A fraction shows equal parts of a whole or a set of objects. 

For example, if you have a pizza and cut it into 4 equal slices, each slice is a fraction of the whole pizza.

Depending on the grade level you teach and the standards you follow, you might be required to teach different parts of fractions. 

In first grade, students are only introduced to equal and unequal parts of fractions, halves, and fourths.

If you teach 2nd grade in Texas and follow the TEKS, students only learn halves, fourths, and eighths, while states that follow the Common Core Standards teach halves, thirds, and fourths. 

In addition, in 2nd grade, the standards only require them to identify fractions in word form. Therefore, they aren’t fully exposed to the terms numerator and denominator when writing fractions using a fraction bar, unless you expose them to it early, which I highly recommend. 

All students will learn the terms numerator and denominator in 3rd grade, so it’s never a bad idea to start incorporating these mathematical vocabulary words into your lessons early, especially in 2nd grade.

Definition of Numerator and Denominator

What Is a Numerator?

The numerator is the top part of a fraction. It names the parts being identified or counted. In the example shown on the numerator and denominator anchor chart below, 3 of the 4 parts are shaded, therefore, the numerator is 3. 

For students to write this fraction using a fraction bar, they would write the number 3 followed by the fraction bar underneath, then the denominator, which is 4 in this case.

What Is a Denominator?

The denominator is the bottom part of a fraction. It names the total number of parts in the whole.

In the example at the bottom of the numerator and denominator anchor chart, there are 6 circles total and 4 of them are shaded. To write the representation of this fraction, students would write 4/6 and the denominator would be 6.

Numerator and Denominator Anchor Chart

When teaching students new concepts and mathematical vocabulary words, I truly believe the best way to introduce these words and concepts is by giving students a visual representation while having meaningful mathematical conversations and modeling the concept together. 

I like to use a whole group numerator and denominator anchor chart to visually show students what a numerator and denominator is and where they are found in a fraction. 

This is a practical activity to use at the beginning of your unit to introduce the concept to all students and form a foundation for them to build on.

With this anchor chart, students can reference it to see what the definition of a fraction is, what the definition of numerator and denominator is, and see some examples of fractions and their parts. 

Hang your anchor chart in a place where students can easily access it throughout the unit as a reference tool and a way to help them problem-solve.

numerator and denominator anchor chart

Numerator and Denominator Interactive Notebook Activity

To help students apply their learning and create a reference tool to look back on at any time, I like to have students complete interactive notebook activities to practice matching written numeral fractions with the correct picture representations. 

This Match the Fraction interactive notebook activity is a hands-on and practical way for students to identify the numerator and denominator in various fractions. 

In the first example, the rectangle is divided into 6 equal parts and 3 of them are shaded. Students can say that 3 of the 6 parts are shaded or that 3 of the 6 parts are not shaded. By looking at the picture representation, students can identify that 6 is the denominator since there are 6 total parts of the whole. They can also see that 3 is the numerator since there are 3 parts shaded.

numerator and denominator match the parts interactive notebook activity

Name Fractions Activity for Practicing Numerator and Denominator

Another fun yet practical activity I like to use to help students practice applying the concepts of numerator and denominator is this Name Fractions activity. Students love this activity because it is so personal to them. Plus, what kid doesn’t love making something out of their name?

To use this activity, students write the fraction that represents the letters in their name. For example, my name, Marcy, has 5 total letters, AKA, 5 parts in the whole. This means that the denominator is 5.

I have 1 vowel and 4 consonants in my name, so ⅕ of the letters are vowels and 4/5 of the letters are consonants. If identifying the vowels, the numerator is 1. If you’re looking at the consonants, the numerator is 4. However, the denominator doesn’t change as there are still the same number of parts (letters) in the whole. How’s that for a little bonus ELA lesson, too?!

It’s fun to see all of the students’ name fractions be so different and unique to them with this activity. They can also show their creativity with this activity as they write and decorate their name.

example of numerator and denominator name fractions activity

Numerator and Denominator Lesson Plans

I hope these 3 practical activities help make teaching numerator and denominator less tricky for you and your students. If you are looking for more fraction resources to use in your classroom to help your students master fractions, check out the activities below for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade or find them in my TPT store

You can also find more tips, read alouds, and activity ideas for teaching fractions in these blog posts:

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numerator and denominator activities
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