
The
problem many people have with school
arithmetic [fractions] is that they never
get to the meaning stage; it remains forever
an abstract game of formal symbols.
Keith
Devlin, The Math Instinct
Mastering fractions is a strong indicator of
future math success. We have to pay our dues at
the fraction toll booth before we can travel the
highway to Algebra 1. Tom Hanks, in the movie A
League of Their Own, captures the
dilemma perfectly when confronting a discouraged
female baseball player who wants to quit the
team, saying it got too hard. “It’s supposed to
be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do
it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” You’ve
got to be great to master fractions in
elementary school, because most likely the
barriers will be nearly
impossible to overcome.

The
best you can hope for is a fragile understanding that
will make you grasp for formulas when you are
confused. The way I see
it is that we need to come up with ways that help
children not only to succeed with fractions but also to
see their trip through school as an adventure which
includes challenges to engage in because they are
motivated.
“Instead of making kids learn
math, let’s make math kids will learn.”
Seymour Papert

According
to HungHsi
Wu, the reason why this subject is the bane
of elementary school students has been extensively
investigated but to our knowledge no dramatic
progress has yet
surfaced as to the efficacy of students learning
fractions.
One of the problems is that in contrast to units
of whole number learning – topics in rational
numbers are usually covered quickly and
superficially whereas focus on operations,
fractions, decimals and percent get a lot more
time. While procedural competence is
certainly important, it must be anchored by
conceptual understanding. For a great many
students, it is not. (How
Students Learn, p. 319)
So what I hope to provide is an antidote for your
students' fraction malaise pandemic. I call it an 
Adventure in
Numbertown. So let's begin our adventure! I hope you enjoy it. 