Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fractions, Decimals and Percents

Conversions from fractions to decimals to percents are one of the most important topics for middle school students to master. I have always used a conceptual approach to teaching math, but this topic is difficult. I believe that a lot of time would have to be spent to teach a conceptual understanding of this topic. For example, students should be able to develop a number sense and eventually use mental math: If 1/8 is 0.125 then 3/8 is 0.375, and so on. But time is not something teachers really have. On the other hand, a simple mechanical approach is faster and perhaps easier to teach. Either way, do the kids really get it? I have seen them enter 7th grade with a marginal understanding of fractions. That's half the battle. So do we blame the elementary teachers? Is that fair when middle school teachers are blamed by high school teachers for poor preparation of students? Anyway, I called my percent unit Understanding Percent, so you can see what approach I used there. On the other hand, my Percent Goodies game is a vehicle for practicing conversions between fractions, decimals and percents. It would be interesting to enter a brick building again and teach this topic.