3rd Edition – Time 4 Fractions – Problem #1 – Walking along a pond

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Welcome to our first problem ! This week will be a warm-up, as I want to make sure we are all aboard and comfortable with pursuing the journey from home. Bear with me with the length of this post, next week will be much shorter.

The goal of this journey is to provide opportunities for children to explore word problems in “any way that they wish” (Carpenter et al, 2015, page 80), extend their reasoning skills, and gradually strengthen their foundation in fractions. Each problem is differentiated to target all elementary grades and is quite short. A child may be done within 5-10 min, or may decide to take more time to fully explore it with a visual representation and manipulatives. It is not a test, it is not a race. Week after week, problem after problem, children strengthen their reasoning skills by creating their own strategies to solve problems.

When children receive their formal fraction instruction in class, they will have a stronger background to build upon. If you decide to take the journey with us, from home, I hope you will enjoy observing your child’s thinking as much as I do with mine. It is fascinating. They explore. We listen.

So, here we go:

Problem #1 –  Walking along the pond

  • Level Yellow : Mr. Wood is walking along a pond. He sees 3 waterlily pads. On each pad, there are 2 frogs. How many frogs does Mr. Wood see ?
  • Level Orange: Mr. Wood is walking along a pond. He sees 4 giant waterlily pads. On each pad, there are 5 frogs. How many frogs does Mr. Wood see ?
  • Level Red : Complete the problem with the numbers of your choice. Mr. Wood is walking along a pond. He sees ____ giant waterlily pads. On each pad, there are ___ flies. How many flies does Mr. Wood see ? (e.g. 10 pads and 5 flies; 12 pads and 8 flies; 13 pads and 21 flies, etc.)

What to do as a parent ?

Invite your child to solve one of the problems, and listen to his/her way of solving it. He/she can make sense of the problem while using small objects (such as buttons, marbles, etc, and small containers) or drawing a picture. He/she may write an equation. I purposely stepped away from grade level. Each child should pick the problem that he/she feels like exploring.

If your child calls out the answer right away, remind him/her that the answer is fine, but how it was obtained is even more important in this journey. How would he/she explain it to a younger child? Could he/she represent the problem with a drawing? a diagram? Using small objects ?

If your child is not used to solving multiplication problems, you may have to read the problem again, and say things like “I am wondering if these cups and buttons could help us solve the problem” or “Do you think it would help to draw the situation? What should we draw?”. Level Yellow is great for that. Just resist to showing him/her how you would solve the problem.

I am including a link to 2 videos that we did a while ago. Just bear with the French accent, the camera made me quite uncomfortable… :
  • Video Level Yellow : this short video (2 min) shows the material we use at home, and how a child may solve Level Yellow with a drawing
  •  Video Level Orange : this one (3 min) is an example of a child solving Level Orange with manipulative

These videos are just examples, but I hope they help you see what can be done at home. It is all about the exploration. Your child may not use the same approach, but as long as he/she solve the problem a way that makes sense to him/her, it is all that matters.

One more thing: you are right, there is no fraction involved in this problem. Just remember that we are going to explore the concept gradually. We will start with  2 weeks on Multiplication problems (see problem #1) above. Then, we will continue with 2 weeks on Measurement Division problems (Carpenter et al, 2015).

E.g. An elf has 10 berries and some bags. He wants to put 2 berries in each bag. How many bags can he fill?

Finally, we will explore Partitive Division problems and Equal Sharing problems, the core of our fractions exploration (Epson & Levi, 2011).

E.g. An elf has 15 berries. He puts the berries into 3 bags with the same number in  each bag. How many berries are in each bag ?
 E.g. Two elves want to share 5 berries so that each of them gets the same amount. How many berries would each get?

Please, feel free to comment or email at journey2helpchildrenwithmath(at)gmail(dot)com if you have any question about our journey. The more feedback I receive, the more complete the next post will be !


  • Carpenter, T., Fennema, E., Franke, M., Levi, L. and Empson S. (2015). Children’s Mathematics, Second Edition: Cognitively Guided Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. ISBN-13:978-0325052878.
  • Empson, S. E., and Levi, L. (2011). Extending Children’s Mathematics: Fractions and Decimals. Portsmouth, NH : Heinemann. ISBN-13: 978-0325030531.

Would love to hear from you !

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