Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"I don't use fractions in my daily life" ... Really?!

1/2 by Leo Reynolds, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by Leo Reynolds

In a recent discussion about fractions in one of my online math courses, a student claimed s/he does not use fractions in her/his daily life but only in math courses. This student's response was a precious "teaching moment" to promote math awareness of how math is embedded in our lives. Below, you will find my reply to this student's post:

Thank you for your response, though I may have to respectfully disagree with
your assessment that you do not use fractions in your daily life. We are
constantly working with portions or making decisions out of a set of choices
in our daily lives, which is the same as working with fractions. Here are a
few examples:

-- When pouring milk, juice, or soda in a cup, we are using a portion (fraction!) of the milk, juice, or soda available in the container.
-- When we receive our paycheck, a part (fraction!) of our money is used to pay the bills.
-- When we stop at an intersection and decide to make a left turn, your decision
(fraction!) was based on 4 posibilities: go straight, turn left, turn right, or go back (U-turn).
-- When we go shopping and take advantage of the sale of 25% off (fraction!) on every item.
-- When we type our name in the computer, we only use a few keys (fraction!) of the
keyboard.
-- When we have a headache, we take 1 or 2 Tylenol tablets (fraction!) out of the bottle.

These are only a few examples. There will be many more in this discussion, which I hope it will help you gain awareness that we all use fractions (and math!) every day in our lives.

I hope this helps.


Help me add more examples to this list, so I can share them with my students.

4 comments:

rlodan01 said...

In defense of the student, they don't use fractions the way they are taught in school. I agree fractions are everywhere. I've long held that the most important mathematics ever taught are middle school math (ratio/proportion/number sense) because we use them daily whether we want to or not. I will also argue that we seldom use them the way they are taught (procedurally with a focus on computation).

I wish your student could say, I use fractions all the time because they were able to connect their daily experience with their classroom experience. Unfortunately, his/her reality is that they don't use fractions in their daily experience, but I don't think that is their fault.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

thinking about the article I just read makes me realize how it is absolutly true. everyday I have to pass the toll to go to my house, I pay 50 cents wich is .50 of a dollar. or speaking "fraction" 1/2 of a dollar. i think it is really incredible how people really use math in an day to day basis, without even noticing.

Alan Perez

Barbara said...

One of the most basic uses of fractions on a daily basis is time. We talk about a "half-hour" or a "quarter of an hour" all the time. Money is another example - the fact that we often say "a quarter" rather than "twenty-five cents."

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