## A difficult question

Fractions to decimals |

We have all at one time or another thought ‘decimals should
be easy to understand’. After all no matter where we are in the world money is
based upon the decimal system, which child has not experienced that? Yet if you
ask a student what is the value of 7 in 0.12379 the answers given will probably
be not what you want.

Root of the problem

A decimal is a fraction where the denominator is restricted to
powers of ten. Children do not think of decimals this way. They do not see
decimals being linked to place value at all, yet when you mention hundreds,
tens and units a smile comes to there face remembering younger days when life
was easy. Why do they quite comfortably understand ad cope with place value on the left hand side of the decimal point yet when we come to the right hand side it all seems to go wrong, confusion and lack of understanding.

### What to do

We need to be really explicit about place value and decimals. One brief lesson is not enough. Constant reinforcement and being very clear about the links between decimals and fractions is vital to success.

**Here are your 3 easy actions to take.**Do these and their understanding of decimals and fractions will become far more secure.

**1**. The obvious first solution is to constantly emphasise place values when writing decimals. I always write the place value in a different colour to the decimal. This simple action will separate the two sets of numbers, aid memory and make your teaching more effective.

**2.**Secondly I would persistently practice asking what do numbers represent in a decimal number, in other words what is their place value. For example what does the 3 stand for in 0.436. This is easy to do as a starting activity, doesn't take long but done over a few weeks will pay rich dividends.

**3.**Thirdly I would place a big emphasise the ‘ths’. Some learners will not hear the difference between a hundred and hundredths as the ‘ths’ is a very soft sound. You do not want misunderstanding because of mishearing your pronunciation. Avoid confusion and uncertainty by over emphasising the 'ths'.

4. Ensure that when pupils talk about numbers like 0.29 they say point two nine not twenty nine. Correct them becuse if they believe the number is twenty nine then this additional errors could occur. For example you ay ask which is bigger 0.29 or 0.3? The student may reply 0.29 because twenty nine is bigger tha 3.

Follow this simple and what may appear trivial steps when teaching
fractions and decimals and you are laying a firm foundation for greater success
in the future.

## Further reading

I recently came across a book which will help all us hard pressed teachers in the daily struggle to educte, entertain and stimulate the kids. It is called Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners by Andy Griffiths.

*Has anyone got further ideas that will help us all for teaching fractions and decimals?*

*Please leave a comment.*

*Why not follow me on Twitter at*@ croftsr1?