Friday, October 12, 2012

Dividing Fractions

            “Mrs. Jones, Caitlyn’s grade on her math test was just posted and she didn’t pass.  I studied with her last night.  What’s going on?”

            “I know you studied with Caitlyn.  She told me this morning.  She and I worked on the math every day this week, and she was doing the problems very well.   I was disappointed too that she didn’t pass.”  Caitlyn’s mother struggles almost more than her daughter, over her daughter’s work in school.  It’s unusual to go more than a day or two without a phone call or long email from her.

            “Is she getting the proper accommodations when she tests?”

            Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when people talk about “accommodations.”  We throw out that word like there is a specific set of special things we do and kids suddenly are able to remember things and perform on grade level.  I looked at the reminders still written on the white board.

Change everything to a fraction
Keep, Change, Flip

Word Problems:  What are you dividing?
Put it first

            “Yes,” I answered, “Caitlyn took her test in the Learning Center and we reviewed things before she even started.”

            “I don’t understand why she doesn’t pass a test when I study with her.”

            “I’ll help Caitlyn do the corrections on her test and get those in this afternoon.  Her teacher does give extra points for corrections.”

            Two periods later Caitlyn quietly slipped into the Learning Center.  She shyly handed me her test.  Even though her teacher had used a lime green Sharpie to grade the test, the 58% at the top of the page still looked mean.

            “How ‘bout you sit at the round table with me, and let’s do your corrections.  We need to figure out what you did wrong.”

            “My mom’s going to be mad.”  

            “No she won’t be.”  Yes she is.

            We slowly worked through her corrections.  She would calculate two problems correctly and forget to flip a fraction on the third problem.  On the next problem she’d flip both fractions.  Then she’d do three problems correctly.  She was correct more than she was wrong.  I made a mental note to sit by her side for the next test and verbally remind her of each step.

            The second page was simple word problems about pizza.

            “Caitlyn, what are you supposed to always do when you have a word problem?”  I pointed to the reminder still on the white board.

            Caitlyn stared at it for a minute, then said, “Figure out what you’re dividing up.”

            “Read these four problems.”

            “Five people have to share one and a half pizzas.  Six people are sharing three-fourths of a pizza.  Eight people are sharing two and a half pizzas.  Twelve people have to share three and one-fourth pizzas.  How much pizza do the people in each group get?”

            “Look at how you did the problems on your test.  Can you see what you did wrong?”

            Caitlyn stared at her work for a minute, then slowly began to smile.  “I divided up people instead of pizzas.”

            “Good job figuring that out.  Now go ahead and fix your answers.”

            Caitlyn bent her head down and began working.

            “My mom’s still going to be mad.”

            “No she’s not.”  Yes she is.

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