# 8th grader doesn't understand fractions or percents

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DD is doing Teaching Textbooks pre-algebra.  This is her 2nd year using Teaching Textbooks.  She is not particularly math-y.  She does not really understand fractions or percents.  She can't seem to keep track of what "of" means (as in, what is 2/5 of 60?).  I don't know where to go from here.  IIRC last year TT7 was covering mainly fractions, decimals, and percents, and the year before that she did CLE 6 and I know that introduced fractions at least, so it's not like she has never worked with them before.  They just are not clicking for her.  When I try to explain how to work a fraction problem, for example, it's quite frustrating because she seems utterly incapable of wrapping her brain around how to work with fractions.  I don't know if I should have her go back to the beginning of TT pre-algebra and watch all the lectures again and go through all the practice problems (she's been skipping all the practice problems which is another issue), or try to approach this from another angle.  Is there a supplement that might be helpful?  I don't think switching programs would help because she struggled with them in CLE also.

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Key to Series has a fractions and percents book sets. You could do that alongside TT.

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I was really impressed with how Rightstart Math taught fractions & percents.  They have a stand-alone book for this topic, that I haven't used but assume it's using the same methodology as the full curriculum.

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Has she ever been exposed to a manipulative like this?

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I liked the fraction program put out by the people who developed Hands On Equations which I also recommend to you as I think she might benefit from a manipulative approach. It sounds like these concepts are too abstract for her.

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I'm teaching beginners how to multiply fractions right now with Gattegno.  It's a manipulative based approach, but the manipulatives are cheap and versatile.  Gattegno is available online for free on Issuu.  We spend 5 minutes each day going over how to break something into parts visually and then moving between seeing number of parts and size of block.  The kids straight up read every multiplication problem as __ of ___ is ____ instead of ___ x ____ = ____.  It doesn't matter if it's a fraction or a whole number.  1/2 of the 6 block is 3, but 2 of the 6 blocks is 12. Getting the vocabulary down when they're working with small numbers is so important before diving into big ones.  There's an entire Gattegno book on fractions & decimals, book 4, but the work starts in book 1 when they work with numbers 1-20.  Book 4 introduces vocabulary and more focus.  I'd start every kid in book 1 so they got that foundation.

After that book we start playing with Fraction Formula, mostly because we can make up our own games and restrictions with it (like removing the easier cards).  But the tubes and pieces are one of the best ways I've seen when it comes to teaching equivalent fractions.  The kids can hold them, measure them, stack them.

As far as percents, I begin by making kids circle the cent part of the name, then finding the "100" in the symbol.  Then we read the problem again and work through it slowly, but it's mostly a fraction thing still so it has to come after fractions are understood well.

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What about working with coins for a while? It might help to really see and touch that a nickel or 5 pennies is 1/20 or 5% of a dollar, etc. I wouldn't necessarily use a book.

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If you're not already, I'd have her stop watching videos and teach her yourself.  Have her do the problems with you sitting right there.

If the "of" thing is what is tripping her up, she might be confused about how multiplying can yield a smaller number.  "Of" actually means multiplication for everything, not just fractions.  What do I get when I have two groups of three?  Three things in each group times two groups is six.  Use manipulatives.

You might consider trying the MM fractions books.  They're pretty good.  But I would not just hand them to her and tell her to go for it.  She needs a human to teach her and make sure she is understanding every step of the way.  I recommend that you work through the text yourself before presenting it to her as it will show you where the hang ups might be and where things are going.

Edited by EKS
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I've used the "Key to..." series from Key Curriculum Press whenever I've felt we needed to back up and review something.  They have books on decimals, fractions, and percents.

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On 11/18/2019 at 10:02 PM, Plum said:

Key to Series has a fractions and percents book sets. You could do that alongside TT.

This. I'd be tempted to stop TT for a while and do the Key to Fractions. It is very step-by-step straightforward approach to fractions. She needs to understand fractions, so I'd stop and work on that foundation. Algebra is hard if you don't understand fractions.

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54 minutes ago, square_25 said:

This is super important. Kids sometimes really need a person to explain things to them. If you don't feel like you're good at explaining fractions, @caedmyn, can you find a tutor or anyone at all that could help explain things?

It doesn’t seem to matter who explains it to her, she just doesn’t get it.  This has been an ongoing math issue, where she doesn’t understand the instructions, so I explain it to her one way, and she doesn’t get it, so I explain another way and she still doesn’t get it.  She is just not good at math, or science, or grammar, or anything school-related.

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1 hour ago, Bambam said:

This. I'd be tempted to stop TT for a while and do the Key to Fractions. It is very step-by-step straightforward approach to fractions. She needs to understand fractions, so I'd stop and work on that foundation. Algebra is hard if you don't understand fractions.

That’s what I did with my youngest. We stopped Lials BCM and have been working through all of the Key To series. Fractions actually helped tremendously with solidifying multiplication tables because of all of the conversions. The decimals books have a lot of long division and multi-digit multiplication. It’s helped us find and fill in gaps. I’d much rather circle back to ensure basic skills before entering algebra, even if that means she’s off the usual college prep math track. It’s boosted her confidence to the point where she is starting to think she is capable of doing math.

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+1 on the suggestion about looking at any undiagnosed LDs. If you say overall things just don't click for her in anything. And that would be my highest priority in ruling those things out before moving forward with high school. And I would rule out any possible vision issues as well.

Edited by calbear
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I also am going to suggest a completely different approach to math as well. I have friends who speak very highly of this. https://www.crewtonramoneshouseofmath.com/Getting-Started.html

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If it is just fractions, try this http://www.abcdrp.com/abcd-fractions

But I'm wondering if there is way more going on. Does she understand multiplication and division on a conceptual level?

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