When Using Fraction Strips, How Do You Know That Two Fractions Are Equivalent?

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Fraction strips are mathematical manipulatives: objects that students can touch, feel and move around in order to learn mathematical concepts. Fraction strips are pieces of paper cut in various sizes to show the fraction's relationship to the whole unit. For example, a set of three 1/3 fraction strips placed side by side would make one whole unit. If you make or buy sets of fraction strips that are based on units of the same size, you can compare the strips representing different fractions.

  • Select one or more fraction strips whose whole units are the same size. For example, the whole unit might be a rectangle that measures 4 inches by 8 inches. You could divide one rectangle into eighths and the other into fourths.

  • Lay out the first set of fraction strips side by side. In this example, you could lay out four 1/8 strips from the first rectangle.

  • Lay the next set of fraction strips directly underneath or above the first set. Place the first strip level with the starting point for the previous set of strips. In this example, you could lay out two 1/4 strips from the second rectangle.

  • Compare the two sets of strips. If they are the same size, then the fractions are equal. If one set is larger than the other, then the fractions are not equal.

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