Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary
Description: I’m always hesitant about games that are specifically designed for education because they frequently leave out some of the best aspects of play in order to maintain the emphasis on learning. Fraction Formulas is a great example of a game that is educational and fun for learners.
In Fraction Formula, each player takes one cylinder. You shuffle the fraction game cards and place them in a pile facedown on the table, then put the fizzy fraction tiles in a pile in the center of the table. Players take turns drawing fraction game cards, then taking the corresponding fizzy fraction tile and dropping it in their cylinder. The player who gets closest to one whole without going over wins the game. Players can choose to “hold” or draw another card. A round is over when all players have selected to “hold,” or when one player goes over one whole. At the end of the round, points are assigned based on how close the player is to getting one whole.
Skills & Modifications: I modify this game quite a bit depending on the learner. Sometimes I forego the point system altogether. Getting close to one whole is enough motivation for many learners to continue playing the game. For other modifications, take a look at each skill described below.
Addition & Subtraction – I use this game frequently to help build addition and subtraction skills for fractions. It’s wonderful that each fraction is assigned it’s own color, so you can make an easy reference to finding common denominators. For example, I can take out to cylinders and demonstrate that you can only add fractions that are the same color. You can’t add the green 2/5 to the yellow 1/4. It’s a great visual cue for my students, and then I can ask, “Why are the colors different?” and have my students share that it’s because the denominators are different. It’s a wonderful visual representation that learners can explore on their own as well. I also practice addition and subtraction within one cylinder. For example, I might fill up a cylinder with 4/5 then ask how many I have left when I remove 1/5. The materials are so easy to manipulate that most of my learners can easily demonstrate the answer on their own.
Problem Solving – Sometimes I use these materials without playing the actual game. For instance, I might give a student a cylinder containing 3/5 and ask him/her to figure out how much more is needed to make one whole. I can provide other questions such as this with varying degrees of difficulty based upon the skill level of my learner.
Comparing Fractions – You can use multiple cylinders to compare fractions with same or different denominators. Again, the visual aspect of this kit is really appealing to many of my students and provides a clear example of fraction concepts along with a way to explore those concepts without the help of an adult.
Strategy – This is a great game to use for teaching basic strategy skills if your learner has mastered the other skills required to play the game. The only strategy you can use is in making the decision to “hold” or draw another card. It’s simple to engage your learner in a conversation about why they might hold or why they might see if the next card will bring them closer to one whole. It’s also a great entry into basic probability.
Pros: This fraction activity holds a lot of interest for many of my learners with autism. I’ve used similar activities in the past, but the design of this one captures the attention of my students in a unique way. It’s easy for my learners to manipulate the pieces, the fraction cards are color-coordinated to the fraction tiles, making it simpler for my learners to find the fraction tile they need. Finally, I love the set because it can be used for a wide range of fraction skills practice.
Cons: The price is a little high, but if you are a math teacher or are seeking fun math activities it’s well worth the cost.