Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Favorite Fraction Books

It's no secret that I'm addicted to math-related children's books. Yet even within that genre, there are concepts that scream for my attention.


Why fractions? They lend themselves to story. And the stories help to heal a bit of my wounded math self. As a 4th grader, I was one of a small group of kids in the accelerated math group. Our teacher told us to go ahead in the book, as fast as we wanted. I was SO PROUD. I flew. Until I crashed. Into the chapter on fractions. I was too embarrassed to tell her that I had no clue. None. Nada. Zilch. Not even 1/100th of an idea of how to do this new, intimidating stuff that masqueraded as math. So I stressed. Kept silent. And the rest of the class passed me.

Here are some books that help to heal the fraction-anxious 4th grader in me:

We enjoyed a great little exploration with fractions and doubling with Matthew McElligott's book, The Lion's Share: A Tale of Halving Cake and Eating It, Too (2009.) In the story, an ant is invited to the lion king's dinner party. At the party, the other animals demonstrate horrendous manners. When the king passes the cake, each animal takes half of the cake he is passed. So, the elephant take half of the original cake and passes on a half. The hippo takes half of that piece (a quarter) and passes the remains to the gorilla who takes another half (an eighth of the original), passing the remainder on to each animal until a mere morsel is given to the ant. The tiny creature, embarrassed because he doesn't have enough to share, tells the king that he'll return the next day with a special cake for the king. Each animal, wanting to outdo the next, agrees to bring double the amount of cakes to the king. So the ant will bring one, the beetle two, the frog four, and so on. Click to the entire lesson with visuals.

This out-of-print book can often be found inexpensive, used. Little Numbers and Pictures That Show Just How Little They Are! is a nice fraction/decimal book to use with 3rd-5th grade students because:

1. The "unit" is a dinosaur. Specifically, a seismosaurus. Kids need to understand that a "unit" can be flexible. In this book, everything is measured in terms of a dinosaur unit.

2. The book depicts increasingly smaller measurements. If a dinosaur is worth 1, then a dinosaur shrunk to 1/10 will fit in the front yard. It talks about various other tenths, like a dime being a tenth of a dollar. It shows both decimals and the fraction equivalent.

3. The numbers creatively get smaller, each time decreasing by powers of ten. For example... 1/10,000 is an ant. 1/1,000,000 is an amoeba. Some kids will be very intrigued by the exponents, which are also included.

4. The book is big (13 x 8") and good with crowds.

The boys and I found a book that we absolutely love. Ed Emberley's Picture Pie is a circle drawing book. He shows you how to divide circles into fractional pie pieces to create designs, flowers, birds, animals, fish, clowns and a whole host of fun pictures. Click to the entire lesson with visuals. And a follow up lesson with creative writing. With the same lessons we also use Picture Pie Two.

My opinion about The Wishing Club; a Story About Fractions by Donna Jo Napoli, totally changed. When I read it alone, I wasn't terribly excited. When I read it to my student, his enthusiasm was catching. In the book, siblings, ages 8, 8, (twins), 4, and 2, wish on a star. Over several nights they discover that their wishes are granted in fractions, determined by their ages: 8yos get 1/8, 4yo gets 1/4, 2yo gets 1/2. My student quickly understood the concept of fractions, exclaiming after the second page (which shows four 1/4ths make 1), "then one penny is 1/5th of a nickel!" In the story, the siblings put their wishes together to make one whole wish and get the wish that all of them want.

Disclosure: If you purchase books through my Amazon links, all commissions go toward foster care through Grace and Hope at no additional cost to you. I do not keep any money myself; I am hoping to be able to sponsor an additional child in foster care through commissions on this site. Thank you!


  1. You are on a roll lately with all these terrific posts! They are very encouraging.

    1. Thank you, Tamara! I thought of you when I wrote it...using your advice about bringing new life to past posts. :)

  2. I pinned this post to look for some of this books. We quite liked Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy. She is my "go to" person for math books. Well, she and David Adler.


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