Adding Fractions, Demystified!

By in Netmath-FR, Our Expert Talks, Parole d’expert

Activities used by Valérie Lebel, math resource teacher

How does fraction addition work? It’s not easy to understand. We continue our quest for good ideas on how to introduce fractions to elementary school students with our Netmath expert, Simon Lavallée, and Valérie Lebel, an Elementary math resource teacher at Dollard-Des-Ormeaux school of the Central Québec School Board.


Students have difficulty adding fractions. Often they do not see the meaning given to finding a common denominator for the two fractions involved in the addition. They do it automatically and often forget to do so, as if it were for them an action from a list of tasks. However, finding a common denominator should not only be a step in an algorithm. To help students have an image that can guide them to the formal procedure, Valerie suggests using a sequence of questions using blocks of patterns.

I present it to you:


This material, which you can print HERE, is a wonderful classroom opportunity to discuss the meaning of operations on fractions in class, whether for addition or subtraction.

Ingenious, isn’t it? A simple but effective idea! For the more adventurous among you, it is possible to continue this investigation using decimal numbers. But this is another idea that I will present to you on another day.


If you too have developed techniques on how to approach this mathematical concept, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments section.

In the meantime, I encourage you to practice fraction sense on Netmath in class or at home. To do so, here are 4 carefully selected activities to send to your students:


Addition | Substraction | Multiplication | Division


Simon Lavallée,
Netmath Expert and E-learning Specialist