Practical Ways for Kids to Practice Fractions at Home

4 min to read
Student and teacher practicing fractions at home

Soft and squishy homemade playdough offers Learning Coaches a powerful resource for reinforcing online elementary students’ grasp of fractions and their relevance in everyday life. 

While many teens and adults automatically process fractions regarding recipes, deals, and discounts on shopping, elementary school students are still often mastering the skill and can benefit from guidance and practice in this area. 

For parents seeking information and ideas regarding how to practice fractions, today’s science, technology, engineering, and math STEM craft, do-it-yourself (DIY) playdough, is an exciting and hands-on way to help children practice fractions at home and gain experience with everything from basic measurements to modifying the recipe size, depending on their age and math skills. 

Practice Fractions at Home with DIY Playdough

Since most ingredients and materials are considered kitchen staples, your family will likely find most of what’s needed for this craft in your home. Just in case, scan your pantry a few days before completing this activity to ensure you can add any missing items to your grocery list. 

Ingredients and Materials

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon measuring spoon
  • 5‒10 drops food coloring (optional)
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 small microwave-safe bowl
  • Parchment paper 
  • Measuring cup set (1 cup and ¼ cup at minimum)

Estimated activity time: 10‒20 minutes

Directions for How to Practice Fractions at Home with DIY Playdough

  1. Lay out all ingredients and materials on the table so your child can see everything.
  2. Have your student scan the list of ingredients and measurements. Ask them to circle each cup measurement included in their printed recipe and count how many total cups are listed. 

Fraction Practice Problems

Pause and Discuss #1: Here they should identify two instances where they need to add ingredients in the amount of 1 cup and another time when they need to add 2 cups. Playdough comprises 3 total cups of dry ingredients.

  1. Use parchment paper to cover your student’s workspace.
  2. Pour the 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of salt into the mixing bowl. Stir continuously, until the mixture is well blended. 

Fraction Practice Problems

Pause and Discuss #2: Give your child a clean sheet of paper and ask them to draw out 4 cups, 1 for each of the 3 main ingredients and 1 for water. Then have them cross out each one as it’s added to the mixing bowl. 

Using their drawing as a teaching tool, ask your child how much of the recipe is made of flour. They should be able to recognize that flour makes up 2 of the 4 main parts of the playdough. As a fraction, that’s 2/4. From here, have older elementary students determine the lowest possible equivalent fraction for 2/4 (answer: ½) or assist them in doing so. 

Fraction Practice Problems

Pause and Discuss #3: After they cross off the flour cups and salt, ask them how many cups are left to add to make the recipe whole. Encourage them to identify the salt as ¼ of the playdough, and remember to praise them for their use and calculation of fractions during everyday activities

  1. Next add the cream of tartar and mix thoroughly.
  2. Microwave a cup of water in a small bowl for 60 seconds or until hot.
  3. Gradually stir in ¼ cup of water until the dough is slightly moist. 

    Tip: Add more flour if the playdough appears runny or feels extra sticky, but don’t rush into this. Wait a minute or two to give the salt more time to soak up excess moisture. Add anywhere from a tablespoon to ¼ cup of flour at a time.

  4. Add the vegetable oil and food coloring.
  5. Knead the dough until all ingredients are well blended and the dough’s coloring and consistency are even throughout.
  6. Enjoy! Allow your student to play with their new creation and/or use it for other easy ways to practice fractions with popular hands-on math activities. It also serves as an excellent sensory activity or reward for hard work.  

Store your child’s playdough using a sealed plastic bag or airtight container, and it should last roughly 2 to 3 weeks.

DIY Playdough Fraction Practice Problems for Grades 3‒5

Older elementary students (or advanced youngsters) may savor time spent making and creating with DIY playdough. To grow in their mastery of fractions, these children may need more of a challenge. For them, Learning Coaches are encouraged to add the following to the activity:

  • Ask the child questions regarding equivalent fractions, adding fractions, or subtracting fractions every few steps.
  • Instruct the student to increase or decrease the size of several different playdoh recipes by multiplying or dividing fractions and finding a common denominator to increase or decrease a recipe.

Interested in other easy ways to practice fractions with your online student? Check out the Connection Academy® Musical Water Glasses Learning Activity.

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