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We are doing MUS Epsilon. It teaches everything to do with fractions. My son is just not getting it. He tries to cross multiply for multiplication. He cannot remember how to do the steps for division, either the long way or the short way. He doesn't remember to reduce. He will cross multiply even when denominators are the same. He doesn't understand putting a 1 in the denominator of a whole number to make it a fraction. He doesn't understand 3/3 = 1 or 3/1 = 3. He doesn't seem to get that the fraction bar means divided by.

It's like he's in some kind of fog and just works on auto pilot even if it isn't the best. He cannot explain to me what he is doing or why.

I'm wondering if we need to take a break for a couple of weeks and do something else. This is getting beyond frustrating for both of us. I have been explaining some of these concepts every single week for months.

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Perhaps a break would be good. I know fractions are hard for my kids, too. I will tend to take time out and do the â€œKey to FractiOnsâ€ series, which focuses just on fractions. That has seemed to help.

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I also found the Key To Fractions valuable for focused practice on fraction operations. But I felt that practice was our problem, not understanding.

I wonder if something with a lot more hands-on practice or visual manipulation would help.

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1.  Yes a break may be helpful.  Math skills are not just based on learning the material because it is presented but being developmentally ready to learn the material.  He may just not be there yet.  Our brains develop at different rates.

2.  Fractions can be really hard to learn.  They really can.  A program like MUS can be a huge help but it isn't always enough or the right fit.  I would also consider bringing in more tools to your toolbox.  Seek out different manipulative based support systems and games that might help that you could use alongside MUS or in place of for a bit (I would still probably take a break for a bit, though, while you find other resources).

3. Look also at Key to Fractions, too.  It helped here.  The kids needed concrete but also the systematic way Key to explained things worked well alongside other material (I would not use it as a stand alone with a child that is struggling however.)

4.  Consider the possibility that your child may have something more going on.  He may have dyscalculia or another neurologically based learning challenge that is making it extremely hard to process what is happening.

5.  Embrace the idea that he is probably working EXTREMELY HARD but it is not gelling.  His mental effort may be massive.  Some critical piece of the puzzle isn't clicking, though.  Equate it to someone trying to dig an 8' ditch with a piece of broccoli as opposed to a backhoe.  He may not have the right tools in his brain to tweak this out right now. Just repeating what has been done may not actually help him at all.  He may either need more time before trying to tackle this, a different approach, both or bringing in other material on the side to get this but just repeating the same ole same ole when it is obviously not working may net nothing but frustration and really discourage both of you.

6.  Consider working with fractions JUST in practical every day life for a bit. Concrete application with measuring cups and rulers and other items around the house.  Help him connect in a more concrete way.

7.And whether he has dyscalculia or not you might want to look into Ronit Bird materials to help.

8.  Give him lots of encouragement, accept that this is really hard for him, and try with all your might not to get irritated or angry, at least not outwardly.  (FWIW, I struggled a lot with math.  It made it so much harder to get through lessons and think at all when I felt my instructor or my parent getting frustrated/angry/disappointed.  I was just as upset, if not more so, that my brain couldn't grasp things when I was trying SO HARD, but it was ten times worse when I felt negative emotions from others.  I felt like a failure.  That made it even harder to think.)

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Take a break.

Start by reinforcing that the dots in the division sign are really read top to bottom and stand in for numbers: THIS number divided by THAT number.  Practice doing division like that for a while.

We spent last week playing Fraction Formula, which someone mentioned in passing that they bought during a sale.  My kid was having trouble with fractions and immediately took to it.  It comes with one set of instructions, but we turned it into 5:

Game 1: getting to know the pieces.  Making equivalent fractions and looking for number patterns.

Game 2: the game in the book - going to '1' without going over.

Game 3: playing more like traditional card games, holding 4 cards and laying down one at a time to create combinations that total 1.

Game 4: using two tubes each instead of 1, just like game 3, and the option of exchanging a card instead of playing it.

Game 5: holding cards, adding/discarding to create a sequence that is laid down at once and the pieces used for the tube (like rummy)

I think I paid around \$20 for the game and it has been AMAZING in showing my son the relationship - and this coming from a person who has all the MUS fraction tiles/videos, the Right Start ones, the ETA fraction circles, measuring cups....this showed him direct relationships better than any of those did.

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We also had success with Keys to Fractions. Do you have fraction bar manipulatives ? Those were also helpful here. And, FWIW, my sons did better without taking a break, while my girls did better when they did take a break.

Best wishes!

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My 7th grader was not getting proportions, so last week I gave her a break one day and had her bake 4/3s a batch of brownies. I don't think baking using fractions will fix anything, but the chocolate helped some.

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Even if taking a break doesn't help (and it always helped my older kiddo), it won't do any harm while you regroup.

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I'm thinking I'll go back and work through the enrichment pages. We're behind in those by about 8 weeks. That'll give us review, but in a different format that uses lots of application.

Then I'll see where we are.

I have been trying to play Pizza Fractions every week, which I think is a good game, but maybe we need to play more often to see a benefit.

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Write down the formulas for him if needed. I recently went back to school, and in order to proceed in my math class, I had to write down the fraction operations. I cannot remember how to do fractions. I can do more complicated problem (college level math), but can't do fractions.

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Take a break.

Start by reinforcing that the dots in the division sign are really read top to bottom and stand in for numbers: THIS number divided by THAT number. Practice doing division like that for a while.

We spent last week playing Fraction Formula, which someone mentioned in passing that they bought during a sale. My kid was having trouble with fractions and immediately took to it. It comes with one set of instructions, but we turned it into 5:

Game 1: getting to know the pieces. Making equivalent fractions and looking for number patterns.

Game 2: the game in the book - going to '1' without going over.

Game 3: playing more like traditional card games, holding 4 cards and laying down one at a time to create combinations that total 1.

Game 4: using two tubes each instead of 1, just like game 3, and the option of exchanging a card instead of playing it.

Game 5: holding cards, adding/discarding to create a sequence that is laid down at once and the pieces used for the tube (like rummy)

I think I paid around \$20 for the game and it has been AMAZING in showing my son the relationship - and this coming from a person who has all the MUS fraction tiles/videos, the Right Start ones, the ETA fraction circles, measuring cups....this showed him direct relationships better than any of those did.

Thanks! We just got the game too. I was looking online for other games/activities to use with manipulatives.

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You've gotten awesome advice that I cannot add to. I just wanted you to know that it's not just your kid, and he WILL get it one day. It just might take a while and a lot of patience. But please know it's not just you and your son and you aren't the first to go through it. You might already know that, but I know when I went through this with my oldest I felt like we were the only ones and I was doing/had done something wrong and I wish I had realized it wasn't just us. So hugs to you both. It's frustrating, but it will get better. It didn't click for my dd until she was much older than your ds.

You know, I have 5 kids and he's the youngest. I know what you are saying. My oldest graduated last year! I also know that I've been doing this so long, doing the same things, and I don't hang out with a homeschool support group or research curricula to the same extent as I did ten years ago. It's so easy to get into a rut. I'm very glad for all the suggestions. At least 2 things that I've never heard of before!

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I'd like to offer these RightStart fraction webinars as a resource.  Maybe you can find a nugget in there to help him along.  Scroll down for the fractions drop-down option.   :grouphug:  and GL!!

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If he does not understand that 3/3=1, I would stop and start over with fractions.

Use manipulative such as pattern blocks. The people who make Hands On Equations have a new program for fractions.

He is (or may be) getting confused with the standard algorithms because he doesn't understand what is really going on when he multiplies or divides fractions.

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If you take a break, maybe try some serious cooking and baking. Sometimes having real world applications to connect to those formulas to can make a difference.

It may sound too young for him, but maybe making a batch of play doh then using it to create fractions will spark a bit of interest and hands on experience.

Edited by KungFuPanda
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One of my kids who struggled with fractions really just didn't get it. We spent days and days cutting toast in 1/2, fruit in half, until she got that concept. Then thirds then quarters. Then cutting half into quarters, etc. Then we started working with blocks. I'd put square blocks together into shapes and then talk about how 1 block would be what part of the shape, etc. It took a long time, but now she gets it and she's not memorizing. The one downside with MUS in terms of fractions is that it is easy to go to rote memory which will cause the errors your are describing. Baking, especially doubling and tripling recipes really helps too. Measuring cups are your friends. Good luck.

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Perhaps a break would be good. I know fractions are hard for my kids, too. I will tend to take time out and do the â€œKey to FractiOnsâ€ series, which focuses just on fractions. That has seemed to help.

I am thinking of getting the Keys to Fractions series for my 5th grade to supplement.  His problems seem to come in not in working the problem -- but in setting up the problem when it is a word problem.  Does the Keys to Fractions series cover word problems as well?

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I am thinking of getting the Keys to Fractions series for my 5th grade to supplement.  His problems seem to come in not in working the problem -- but in setting up the problem when it is a word problem.  Does the Keys to Fractions series cover word problems as well?

There are a few, but it's not the focus. I feel like it's much better for helping kids understand the basic math than the application.

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I am thinking of getting the Keys to Fractions series for my 5th grade to supplement. His problems seem to come in not in working the problem -- but in setting up the problem when it is a word problem. Does the Keys to Fractions series cover word problems as well?

No, not a lot of word problems. Where I have found it useful is as a basic re-teaching and remediation. My kids were taught it in their math curriculum and just didnâ€™t get it. So, it starts over and re-teaches basic fractions. And thatâ€™s all it does, so for a week or two they just focus on fractions.
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What Arctic Mama and City Mouse said. Sounds like he is missing some crucial foundational concepts if he doesn't understand how 3/1 = 3 or 3/3 = 1. In addition to lots of hands-on experiences with manipulatives, playing games and using real life examples, we spend time with the idea of the fraction bar really being a division sign and if you turn it sideways it looks like the division sign without the two dots. So, 3/1 = 3 because you are really saying "how many 1's in three?" (division) and 3/3 = 1 because if you divide 3 by 3 the quotient is 1. We use Singapore and Beast Academy and those curricula really help with these ideas.

The other thing is that multiplying fractions in Singapore is taught differently than I learned it which was to just do the algorithm (at least as far as finding a fractional part of a whole number). At first I thought it was odd but now I see the beauty in it : ). So with a problem like 2/5 of 20 (2/5 x 20) first my DD (4th) is being taught to find the unit fraction (1/5 of 20) and then multiply that by 2 because it's really 2/5 she needs. Singapore uses bars to show the number (20) divided into sections and puts the 20/5 to show that you are dividing the 20 into 5 equal sections first. Then you are taking 2 of those sections to find the 2/5 of 20. The standard algorithm will be taught but the above process is stressed first. I am finding that my DD is better able to visualize multiplying with fractions from this type of work.

I also really stress to my kids that fractions are a way of describing relationships among numbers and are not specific numbers themselves per se. That probably makes no sense technically (the jargon), lol, but the idea is that young kids (K-2) have only really had experience with whole numbers that represent what you are talking about every time (i.e. count ten cookies and write 10 to represent the amount). But starting in 3rd grade or so, we are talking about different types of numbers that behave differentlyâ€“fractions. The fraction 1/2  may be 6 if the whole is 12, or 1/2 may be 50 if the whole is 100, but it is still 1/2 you are talking about each time. This is an abstract and different concept and can be difficult for kids to wrap their minds around.

Lastly, I remember and discuss with my kids (when things get hard) that fractions are heavily featured for about 3-4 years (between grades 3-5/6) so if something doesn't "click" right away, you'll have another opportunity shortly. Then, of course, you see them again in pre-algebra and algebra, etc....

Edited by chiefcookandbottlewasher
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If you take a break, maybe try some serious cooking and baking. Sometimes having real world applications to connect to those formulas to can make a difference.

It may sound too young for him, but maybe making a batch of play doh then using it to create fractions will spark a bit of interest and hands on experience.

You stole my idea. ;) Our kids all knew fractions from cooking. It has made it way easier to teach them theoretically. Let's double this recipe... Cur this one in half, so multiply by one half... Do it yourself but be really explicit then let the kid try one.

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I agree with others about manipulatives (we have circular and bar fractions).

Edited by greenfields
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We hated Keys to Fractions, but found the Math Mammoth Fractions 1 and Fractions 2 downloads to be fabulous.  My DD is rocking fractions this year after using MM last year.

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My dd, who had dyscalculia, had no problems taking to fractions. This surprised me, because everything else had been such a slog. But we'd spent a lot of time with the Papy Minicomputers, so the idea that fractions are what we call pieces of 1 wasn't at all radical because she was so used to whole numbers being pieces of other whole numbers. Maybe try the minicomputer lessons from CSMP.

Rosie's fraction vids on Education Unboxed were good for a bit of spit and polish too.

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