Fractions: difficult but crucial in maths learning?


Have a look at this paper, Fractions: difficult but crucial in mathematics learning, by Nunes et al, 2006:

It highlights lots of the fraction misconceptions that children hold, and links in with the findings of the SSLN that many children find understanding fractions, decimals and percentages very difficult.

This resource from the National Centre of Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has excellent ideas for addressing the teaching of fractions as a staff in schools, and acknowledges that many adults may also find fractions and decimals hard to understand!

The activity for addressing these common fraction misconceptions looks particularly useful:


  • fractions are always parts of one, never bigger than one
  • inaccurate recognition of the ‘whole’
  • fractions are parts of shapes and not numbers in their own right
  • I want the biggest half! Inaccurate division into equal parts
  • 1/2 is smaller than 1/3
  • common misconceptions when performing fractional operations e.g. 2/4 +1/4 =3/8.


  • decimals with more digits are larger – ordering 0.25 is bigger than 0.3
  • 0 as a place holder 3/100 is 0.03 not 0.3
  • reading 0.11 as nought point eleven
  • misaligning digits when calculating using vertical columns
  • moving the decimal point when multiplying by 10.


  • percentages can never be bigger than 100%
  • not understanding that percent means out of 100.

It suggests staff could work together to identify the misconceptions in the examples, then teach the concepts correctly, which could be an excellent opportunity to then build on with your children.

Here are some more useful links to help with teaching fractions:

Fraction2 Symbols and Sets Fractions3 Ordering Proper and Improper fractions Fractions4 Multiplying Fractions Fractions5 Dividing Fractions Fractions6 Percentages Fraction Bits and Parts

Also look in the Resources section of Glow for lots of games to help with fractions – please share any resources or games that you have found useful too!

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