Some of you who were involved in the EQAO Primary Assessment last year may remember this question.
There are 24 students in Mrs. Lowe’s class. She divides the class into 4 equal groups. Make a drawing to show the 24 students divided into 4 equal groups. One of these groups goes to the library. What fraction of the groups goes to the library. Justify your answer.
A few of my Grade 3 educator friends commented on how challenging this was for many of their students. I scribed for one child and observed first hand where the challenge was.
At a quick glance you might wonder why this is was so difficult as the participants were told how to begin – make a drawing and divide into 4 equal groups. Once this is done the drawing reveals 4 groups with 6 students in each group. Here lies the difficulty. Students focus on the number in each group instead of the number of groups. They are not unitizing (6 students =1 group and 1 group is one of the four groups in the class (one-fourth). Unitizing is a key concept of proportional reasoning! One-fourth of the students went to the library, but I have a feeling that a lot of “sixes” or “sixths” were in the final answers.
We spend a lot of time on multiplication and division in Grade 3. What a perfect opportunity to make connections to the “set model” of fractions at the same time. I love finding these curriculum connections! Why not try this with your students and observe what happens.