Dividing Fractions

I remember my muscles tensing and my body freezing, my eyes growing wider as my mind started to race and adrenaline started to pump.

“I don’t remember how I used to explain why dividing fractions oftentimes ends up with a quotient larger than either the dividend or divisor.”

A few panicky seconds passed.

“Oh my gosh — I can’t remember, I can’t remember,” I said to myself, over and over.

I searched for the answer in my mind.  I worked examples, looking for the pattern that was going to -click- make everything fall into place. I knew this, but I just couldn’t remember.

“I have got to know this.  I can’t just say ‘flip the second fraction and multiply,’ without being able to explain why.”

I looked at the clock, on the off chance that it might give me the answer.

2:40 A.M.

Knowing that I don’t start teaching fourth grade for another two and a half months, I did my best to let it go, telling myself I could look it up in the morning.  “Besides, that’s not even a fourth grade standard,” I added for good measure.

To my later-in-the-morning amazement, I actually went back to sleep.  

A new grade level is going to be fun!

18 thoughts on “Dividing Fractions”

  1. Ack! I have fears like that too as I embark on a new grade level adventure! I remember long ago teaching fifth grade that when I taught multiplication of fractions was actually the first time I understood WHY they got smaller when multiplying. Maybe some old memories will move forward in my brain that has only taught third grade for so many years… I am currently a little annoyed that it means I have to move classrooms again- my third in 4 years. We can do hard things!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erika, three classrooms in four years is a hard thing, indeed! I don’t doubt that you’ll pick up what you need to know as those memories move forward. 🙂


    1. Adrienne, that’s a great idea! I’m looking forward to the upcoming year. I always enjoyed doing things with my third-graders, but more so during the second half of the year. This year I’ll just get to pick up where we I left off!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your story reminded me of the year I taught Timmy, a highly gifted third grader who was learning 6th grade math. Every night I would study math to keep a step or two ahead of him! And now I have to go figure out dividing fractions…Enjoy fourth grade next year. I agree with Adrienne–the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vivian, I really am looking forward to the fourth grade. I’ve had a few students working ahead of the grade level, and it always involved me brushing up on some skills as well. Dividing fractions really is cool, in a geeky kind of way!


  3. Haha! That is such a perfect slice of life for making changes. Those 2:00 o’clock in the morning questions can be haunting. You might want to keep a pad of paper and pencil handy for recording those wild thoughts over the next two and a half months. I’m glad you got back to sleep!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, dear! I’ve had nights like that. It’ll come to you – and it’s nice to hear that you’re thinking beyond the standards of your upcoming grade level. There are always kids who “need” more. Being able to explain is part of being prepared and you will be! I know it! Besides, as you said it’s several months away – you have time. It is fortunate you got back to sleep!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha! And I saw the concept and I got kind of giddy. Because I LOVE teaching fractions. And even dividing fractions are kind of cool. For me, I like connecting back to the big ideas of sharing (more people, less for me, need equal shares). We all have that intuitive sense, even though we don’t give ourselves credit for it. Everything else in fractions kinda stands on it. Ah. Look at me. On the soapbox again. But I confess I am a number nerd to the core.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lainie, I think I’ve told you that my wife always says she loves nerds. Good thing, too. I also love teaching fractions; actually, I love teaching all of the elementary math topics. I’m all for the material in the older grades, but elementary math? We use that stuff often, or at least we wish we could when we need it. I want to make sure my students have it available to them when the time comes. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Absolutely! I’ve often felt that one of my callings would be to teach self-professed adult math haters mathematics. I think about how cool it would be to make people understand that they are SO MUCH MORE mathematical than they give themselves credit for.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Marilyn, you’re very kind. I think the same thing about you and the other members of this community, and aspire to meet the example you and others have set.


  6. Oh my goodness, Tim – I know this feeling! You WILL have fun, though, in fourth grade, fractions (yikes!) and all. If anyone can make it fun for the kids, YOU can – I have no doubt. I can see you writing equation poems with them and all kinds of things yet to be thought of… but waking up in the middle of the night two months ahead-!! So glad you could go back to sleep. Oh – and the kids will be fascinated by your raptor work. You can fall back on that when fractions fail. KIDDING! – that won’t happen. But now you have an escape. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fran, raptors are definitely the ace up my sleeve! I think it’s going to be a great year, and one of my favorite “math” activities is definitely going to be equation poems!

      Liked by 1 person

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