How to teach your kids fractions using pool noodles


Right about now, your kids are probably enjoying their summer vacation with plenty of time floating around in the pool or at the beach. It’s hard to believe school starts in about a month for many students and it will be here before you know it.

While they probably have no interest in learning anything during these final weeks of summer, believe it or not, you can help them get a jump start on the school year with a fun math lesson about fractions — yes, there is such a thing! And, all you need is a swimming toy you probably already have floating around somewhere: a pool noodle!

Little kids with swimming noodles in indoor pool
Little kids with swimming noodles in indoor pool

Leave it a group of teachers to find a way to make fractions fun. The educators at We Are Teachers came up with the idea of using pool noodles as an easy, inexpensive learning tool to help students visualize fractions, which is often a challenge for many kids.

Educators know most students learn best by using hands-on activities (known as manipulatives in the teaching world). Activities using both the brain and the hands allow students to make stronger connections with the subject matter being taught. So this pool-noodle fractions lesson is perfect!

Pool noodles are easy to find and no more than about $1 apiece during the summer season. Make sure to pick up a variety in different colors; they make it easier to distinguish between fraction sizes and, besides, it’s more fun with a rainbow of colors!

You only need four things to put together this fractions lesson:

  1. Pool noodles
  2. Permanent marker
  3. Knife
  4. Cutting board

We Are Teachers outlines the super simple way to take a bunch of pool noodles and turn them into the carefully measured whole, half, quarter, third and even eighth-length pieces. Check out the video below for a quick tutorial in how it works.

You need to make sure you’ve got a nice sharp knife to make those cuts clean. Even cuts not only make the pieces neater but also help them line up properly when they are stacked on top of one another.

Once you’ve cut the pieces and labeled them, you can have the kids work on how many parts make a whole, fraction addition and subtraction and even equivalence. The spongy foam, fun colors and stackable pieces will likely distract them from realizing they are actually learning during playtime!

Curiosity, Parenting

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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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