Monday, April 16, 2012

Fabulous Fractions: A TOS Review

My son is in the 6th grade. This year much of his math curriculum has covered fractions. He "survived" fractions, and then the curriculum moved on to decimals, but I could tell he did not completely "get" fractions. When I learned that I could have the opportunity to review Fabulous Fractions, by the AIMS Education Foundation, I jumped on it hoping that more time spent on fractions would help my son.
I've been aware of AIMS materials for twenty years (pre-internet, pre-computer days). My first AIMS materials were Science materials, and I loved them and reused them with every child. Since then, I knew AIMS must still be out there, but I had never gotten ahold of any additional AIMS materials.
I am happy to report that the materials have gotten better and better!

Fabulous Fractions is very nicely put together. The paperback book includes a CD in a plastic pouch inside the back cover, as well as a zip-lock bag of additional transparent, colored plastic manipulatives that I learned called "Fraction Squares" and are used to illustrate multiplication of fractions.
This picture shows the transparent Fraction Squares highlighting pictures in the book:

 I really like having the PDF files on the CD to print from. (Remember, my previous materials I had to take somewhere to photocopy... back in the '90's.) What was a little difficult for me was that the CD files are in Alphabetical Order according to subject title. I would have found it easier if the files were in the same order as the book. This could have been done by having numeric-alpha titles to the files, such as the file name starting with the page number, or something along those lines.

Fabulous Fractions has 185 pages of materials. It is not broken into chapters, but has sections covering the following: Fraction Number Sense; Concepts, Models and Operations; Circle/Sector Models; Linear Models; Slide Ruler Fractions; Area Model; Commentary on Division of Fractions; Coordinate Plane Model; Applications; Playful and Intelligent Practice; and Assessment.

Fabulous Fractions is geared for students grades 3 through 5, but flexible for grades 3-9, and the concepts are presented in order appropriate to introduce each concept in order. In other words, concepts for 3rd graders come first, concepts for 4th graders come next, and concepts for 5th graders come last. I am very pleased that the materials are not marked according to grade level -- that way the materials can be used for remedial work, without the student feeling self-conscious about being given materials age-appropriate for a younger child. (The book does tell the teacher which concepts are appropriate for which age levels.)  You can look at a preview here, to see better pictures than the ones here in this review.

My son's areas of weakness were in the areas of multiplying and dividing fractions, as well as the area of common denominators. Fabulous Fractions teaches multiplying fractions in a really cool way using the Fraction Squares. Here you see 1/2 times 1/3, and the illustration with the Fraction Squares superimposed over each other shows how the answer becomes 1/6 (the square where they intersect, and shows how the original square is now in sixths):

 Fabulous Fractions has a really cool method of discussing common denominators. They call them "CD's" (as in "compact disks", but meaning instead "common denominators"). This section works with circles that are the size of CD's, and explains various types of divisions (I would call them "pies"). Then the book also uses the circle manipulatives to show comparative value of fractions of different denominators. It also uses the circles to demonstrate fraction to decimal conversion!

There is also a section using "slide rule" manipulatives to demonstrate fractions and fraction/decimal comparisons.

There was a section discussing circles as a way to illustrate fractions. It even has a great exercise sorting, dividing, and graphing jelly beans! Our jelly beans from Easter are all gone! I need to go get some more!

I was pleased to find a large section of the book teaching fractions using Tangrams and Pattern Blocks, which is great because I own these manipulatives but did not know how to use them to teach fractions!

There is so much to this curriculum that we still have not gotten to, but I am looking forward to seeing how well it does to help him get a better understanding of fractions, common denominators, multiplying fractions, dividing, and converting to decimals! This looks like a great tool to create understanding and to cement concepts into the brain through real hands-on learning.

Fabulous Fractions book is available from AIMS Education Foundation as a paperback, for $21.95, or as an e-file download for $19.95.

AIMS Education Foundation makes oodles of other materials, with the goal of making math and science fun and understandable for children. I love their materials.

The Nitty Gritty:
Did my son like the program? ...He doesn't like much. He hates math. What can I say...
Is it worth the money? If I were buying this myself, I would not have purchased it. I am too cheap. I have only one child to use it with, and he's at the top end of the age range, and I know how to make my own manipulatives. That said, if I weren't so cheap, my so really did need this extra help, and buying it would have been a good idea.  If I had more children behind him and could use it multiple times, no question it would have been worth the money to me!

I received a paperback copy of Fabulous Fractions  in exchange for my honest review. I was not paid for my review, and this is my personal opinion of the product. I tell my own opinion, whether it is good or bad.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.
Go to the TOS Homeschool Review page to see more reviews of Fabulous Fractions and other products by AIMS.

Let me know what you think. Throw me a comment. Thanks!

This review was updated to correct a link and to correct a misspelling of AIMS Education Foundation

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