Fractiions Content Pathways


Unit Fractions

Unit Fractions





Use proportional reasoning to make reasonable estimates

Understanding proportional reasoning requires students to consider a number or quantity in relative terms. With fractions, students must consider the fraction in context, such as one half of a whole figure. Students use proportional reasoning to partition a whole into unit fractions.


A unit fraction is the base unit of any fraction and always has a numerator of 1; for example,
1 / 4
1 / 5
1 / 23
are all unit fractions. Every fraction can be decomposed into unit fractions. For example,
3 / 4
is 3 one-fourth units (so one fourth is the unit fraction and we are thinking about 3 of them). Partitioning a model involves determining and creating a unit fraction.

Consider the fraction one and three-fourths. This number can be decomposed using a unit fraction.

one and three fourths / seven one-fourths units one and three fourths

seven one-fourths units

One and two-fourths can be composed using a unit fraction.

One and two-fourths can be composed using a unit fraction A student may say, “One whole is the same as 4 one-fourth units. I added another 2 one-fourth units to the whole to obtain 6 one-fourth units. So I can see that 6 one-fourth units is equal to one and two-fourths.

Use of unit fractions supports a deeper understanding of quantity. Notice that in the student dialogue above, early understanding of equivalency is being developed, i.e., one and one half is the same as six fourths. Counting by naming the unit fractions helps students to see the parts of the fraction when composing and decomposing. Notice that both counting unit fractions and composing and decomposing fractions are pre-cursors to addition and subtraction. For example, composing 6 one-fourth units is the same as adding 6 one-fourth units together to make one and one half.

Walk the Line

Students actively equi-partition a number line using different fractional units (e.g., halves, fifths) as they place mixed and improper fractions. Students will enjoy walking, jumping or using every day classroom items as a method of kinaesthetically partitioning a number line on the floor. This task becomes increasingly complex based upon the sets of fractions used.
        Walk the Line

The Living Number Line

Students place cards labelled with fractional amounts on a large number line by equi-partitioning. This physical number line, the living number line, is meant to grow throughout the year as subsequent units (i.e. fractions, percentages, decimals etc.) are placed. Students will use a variety of strategies to place cards appropriately, including relational and proportional thinking and knowledge of equivalency.
        The Living Number Line