Dear Friends:

Good day. My name is Julia and I am the mother of an 8 year old boy who is in the third grade. This year his class has started to learn about fractions, and although he is doing okay, there are still questions that he asks that I am not able to answer. I never did too well in math while I was in school, so I want to be able to help him and make sure that he does better than I, or his dad, did.

So, here's my question. Some of the problems they've had to do starts off with two fractions, and they have to tell whether the two fractions are:

  1. The first one is greater than the second one
  2. The first one is less than the second one, or
  3. They are equal.

One day my son had the problem of 2/3 vs 3/4. Without drawing out a pie chart, how in the world can a child "eyeball" a problem like this and tell what the correct answer is? I've also tried to teach about making common denominators, but that's going over his head at this point.

Are there any great websites that teach fractions?

Sorry for the length of this question, but I'm so frustrated myself. Even though I graduated from college, as mentioned, I did what I could to avoid fractions and math!

Thanks for your answer.


Hi Julia,

We have two responses to your question. One from Denis.

It occurs to me with the 2/3 vs 3/4 problem that one should consider the problem of which is larger, the 2/3 of the pie that remains or the 3/4 of the pie that remains after someone has eaten some pie. In the 1st case someone ate 1/3 of a pie and in the 2nd case someone has eaten 1/4 of the pie. Since we know that 1/3 > 1/4 it follows that 2/3 < 3/4.

The second from Harley Whether you look at this problem as 2/3 vs 3/4 or 1/3 vs 1/4 as suggested by Denis I see no reason why you need to abandon the "pie chart" technique. When you ask me which is larger I see in my mind the pie charts, one with 1/3 removed and the other with 1/4 removed. As much as possible I think graphically. Your choice of the term "eyeball" I find interesting, it is exactly what I do. In my mind's eye I see the pie chart.

In our Resource Room there is a note titled Understand Fractions by Diane Hanson that might be a help. It is written by a teacher for teachers so it is probably more appropriate for you than your son.
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