As we get closer and closer to the last day of school, I am finding that it is not always easy to motivate my students to keep working hard every single day. Most of them want to get work done, but when it is 80 degrees out, it is really hard to focus. I’ve found this is true even in the morning when it is still cool outside. I have to be honest: I’d rather be outside, too, but there are more important things to do.
My students have been working on mastering the fundamental concepts associated with fractions for the past few weeks. One of these concepts involves adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have been repeating this mantra nearly every day:
When adding or subtracting fractions with like denominators, the denominator DOES NOT CHANGE!
I was talking to a retired teacher today who frequently subs in our building and I mentioned that I still had several students who were adding or subtracting the denominators, despite our oft-repeated mantra. She suggested an interesting way for motivating students to solve the problems the right way: give them a test ad tell them that if they change the denominators, they will get a homework sheet full of practice problems and then take another test the next. If necessary, repeat this process every day until the very last day of school. (This is, incidentally, a strategy that one of the first grade teachers has started using with her students.)
I had already planned on testing the students on this critical skill today, so before they started, I wrote the mantra on the board and then told them my plan. I then passed out the assessment and watched as the students got started!
It worked! Everyone followed the rule of adding or subtracting the numerators and leaving the denominators as they are. I was very pleased and now I am more hopeful that we will be able to wrap up fractions this week and get started with decimals next week!