How to Teach Fractions to a Preschooler

We have spent the week on fractions. Actually just one fraction – 1/3. I chose 1/3 because most kids have a grasp of 1/2 if they have ever had to share anything with anyone. 1/3 is a bit more tricky. In the early part of the week we worked with the blocks. We learned that 1/3 can be one of three as in the number 3. Or it can be 1 of three 7 blocks in the number 21. Towards the middle of the week we took all of our learning to town and looked for thirds. We found things that come in three and then we picked out our favorite 1 out of 3. Then we really discovered that getting a grip on fractions has a lot to do with knowing what you are counting. We counted picnic tables, flowers, bells, windows, hedges, water fountain parts. Everything. In the end, we counted M & M’s.



We live in a heavily populated Dutch community. This is one of three dutch shutters on a store front.




In our town square we have this wonderful sundial.

The two arrows point to the two diagonal rings out of six total rings on the sundial.

Those are P’s favorite rings. 



Each year our parks department, or whatever we call them, do an excellent job with the gardens.

This year they ran with a storybook theme.

We took pictures of the kids in front of each character. The top row is 1/3 if you are counting rows. But if we count pictures then one-third is really 3 of 9 images.

And those don’t have to be in a row, as my son aptly noted.


4361129Here we have one of those giant bags of M&M’s filled with fun size packs. P. needs to share them with two of his friends.

He sorted them, one at a time, into 3 piles. He noted that this is just like division.

He gets to take 1/3 of the big bag (the big bag is one). How much is that? 1 pile out of three piles. How many bags are in that pile? 20. He gets 20 out of 60 bags, which is the exact same thing as 1/3.

We have to know what we are counting. 


Then we decided that today P. was being very selfish. He decided that he would keep all the bags of M&M’s and open just one bag and share it with his 2 friends.

So we separated the M&M’s into 3 piles.

How much does each child get? One pile or 1/3. How many M&M’s are there in each pile? 4. So each child gets 4/12 of the M&M’s.  Four twelfths is exactly the same as 1/3, but again, you have to know what you are counting. 



There was another boy, but it wasn’t P. because he is not that selfish. This boy, he wouldn’t share his whole bag of M&M’s. He would only share one M&M. We had to divide this M&M into 3 parts. So each person could have 1 measly third of an M&M.

By the way, it is much easier to cut peanut butter M&M’s than chocolate ones.


After this last picture is where it gets interesting.

P. discovered that you can keep dividing that last M&M into thirds forever. You will never hit zero. There is always a third left to cut. That aha moment for him means we will be working on an infinite series with the help of Calculus for Young People. You can watch a video below on an Infinite Series for Kids. P. Isn’t ready for the video yet. We will work with paper and play around for awhile. We haven’t worked on adding or subtracting fractions yet. Besides, he is ready to get back to his favorite math: polynomials.

[youtube id=”tjF0DhyTtjY”]
Arithmophobia No More