Although we adults are pretty good at converting common fractions and decimals, it’s just not an activity that’s very relevant or interesting for a child. If anything, converting to percents makes more sense, since this is how their grades are determined. But fractions to decimals, and vice versa, just doesn’t seem important to most 12-year-olds. So, I’ve put together a few items that will make this task much more fun and engaging. After all, that’s half the battle when teaching Math!
First, a tip for new teachers: just make everything into a decimal. It’s much easier than trying to have students write fractions with common denominators or have them write a decimal as a fraction, then find a common denominator. I make my students repeat the phrase,”To get a decimal, we divide,” on a daily basis during this unit. The alliteration and repetition engrains the simple one-step conversion into their heads.
Second, take a few minutes to see which common fraction-to-decimal equivalents your students already know. They often surprise themselves by generating their own lists, even if it just involves halves, quarters, and thirds. I usually give my students a “cheat sheet” to place in their math binders. Typically, most of my students don’t use it, but just knowing that it’s there gives them confidence. You can click on this link to view the list of common fraction and decimal equivalents that I give my students. It’s from FactMonster.com . It also includes percents, but you could always crop that out if you would like.
After my students have had time to practice this basic conversion, I have them complete a Fraction to Decimal sorting activity. You can grab a free copy at my store! Over 2,500 people have already downloaded it. In this sorting activity, students cut out 16 sorting cards. Half of the fractions (or 0.5, if you’re following along) convert to terminating decimals, and half of the fractions convert to repeating decimals. Students must sort the cards and attach them on the chart, under the appropriate heading. Students are required to provide justifications for at least two questions in each category. I usually have my students work in pairs or small groups, to generate Math Talk conversations. Sorting activities like this one are quick, fun, simple ways to help students establish the basic skills they need before taking on more complex tasks.
Next is one of my students’ favorites, the Fraction vs Decimal War card game! The basic rule of the game is easy: Draw 2 cards, just like in the regular game of war. Determine which card has a greater value. The winner is the player whose card has the greatest value. You get 64 cards, with a wide variety of fractions and decimals, all in printable sheets. You don’t have to purchase or alter real playing cards. The game doesn’t get stale, because I have included several Joker cards with special conversion/comparison tasks for fractions and decimals. It doesn’t get better than this!
Just print the cards, have your students cut along the lines. Display the rule sheet, and you’re set! You could always choose to laminate the cards and store them from year to year.
Your kids will love the game, and they will gain lots of extra practice comparing fractions and decimals. You can grab a copy at my store.
Another fun teamwork activity for your whole group is the Human Number Line. As the teacher, I randomly distribute either a fraction card or a decimal card to my students. The students look at their cards and decide where they belong on the number line, from 0 to 3. Should they move to the left or to the right? Is it closer to 0, 1, 2, or 3? I encourage students with fractions to convert them to decimals, and even write the new form of their number right on their card. I give each student a small piece of tape, and then dismiss them one row at a time to tape their cards on the board, in order. The rest of the class has to stay silent, until I ask for suggestions about what my need to be adjusted. Do any cards need to be flip flopped? Is anything out of place? They love finding errors, and keeping their attention is pretty easy. Everyone gets to participate. Students become good at justifying why a number is or is not in the correct position. Even passive students are exposed to positive, articulate math conversations during this activity.
You may even choose to time your class with each repetition of the activity to see if you can set a new class record for fastest number line completion!
You can find this Human Number Line activity, as well as several other versions with integers, percents, and more at my store.
Finally, if you’re looking for quiet, independent activity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of converting fractions and decimals, you can check out the Hidden Picture Math – Converting Fractions to Decimals worksheet. Students work to reveal the hidden picture by converting fractions to decimals and shading in their answers on the grid. This fun, simple worksheet includes directions for your students, including which colors to use. You will be able to grade/check these in mere seconds using the color key that I have provided. Head on over to my store to get your copy.
If you have other fun ways to get your students to convert, compare, and order fractions and decimals, please let me know in the comments 🙂