In an era when advanced mathematics students are not fluent in fractions or calculating percentages, and employers report that new hires lack measurement skills, Colfax High School Math, Design Tech and 49er ROP Design and Construction instructor and successful inventor, Jonathan Schwartz sought a way to engage students of all ages in fun, hands-on math practice. He invented Fraction Contraption (Fraction Contraption is patent pending and is a registered trademark) as a fun way for students to practice math.
As part of the Sierra STEM Academy, he introduced teachers to “Fraction Contraption” curriculum, shared hands-on learning teaching techniques and lead teachers in constructing their own game board in the wood shop.
Go to Jonathan Schwartz’s Fraction Contraption web site
How to play Fraction Contraption Descriptive Flyer fraction contraption 9-7-10
Fraction Contraption Teacher Professional Development Workbook — Fraction Contraption Book Final
STEM Academy Flyer STEM Academy Fraction Contraption Flyer 10 08 30
Fence the yard Fence The Yard Grid with logos
As part of the Sierra STEM and NSF Tech-Explorer projects, Sierra College conducted a pilot program with 203rd-9th grade teachers interested in using games to help students improve their confidence and competence in essential math skills, particularly fractions, during the 2011-2012 school year.
Jonathon Schwartz of Colfax High School created the Fraction Contraption game and other similar math games and shared them with fellow teachers. He developed the idea of focusing on the Seven Math Essentials — measurement, fractions, ratios/proportions, probability, decimals, percent, and geometric reasoning. Mastering these essentials predict success in Algebra and higher level math.
As students played the Fraction Contraption game for 10-15 minutes a day for 10 weeks, fraction fluency increased. Results of an informal field test involving 358 students in grades 3-9 indicate that participating students had an average gain of 22.8% on a fraction post-test over a pre-test.
March 2012 Teacher Comments on the Fraction Contraption Pilot Program
“The kids are really benefiting from the experience.”
“At the teacher workshops, I liked the time for grade level articulation as well as sharing of strategies and insights.”
“Sierra STEM provided great information and inspiration all throughout the year.”
“I appreciated the games and extensions of the lessons such as using the statistics from the reaction time game to make a bell curve.”
“The statistics and articles we were given shed the light on the importance of learning math.”
“I benefited from Jonathon sharing his strategies and tricks to integrate math into quick simple games.”
“I think having observers coming into my classroom was a good experience for the students to know that what they were doing was important to a ‘study.’”
“I liked sharing ideas with other teachers.”
“The interim get together enabled us to discuss strategies and problems.”
“Play! Using the Fraction Contraption is the best way to learn how to use it.”
“Jonathon was great at sharing his other games ideas with us.”
“It was good to hear from other teachers how they were using the game and addressing issues that arose.”
“The strongest elements were games to play, ideas on how to use it in class and the Seven Essentials – what they are and why they are important.”
Motivation to participate in the Fraction Contraption Pilot Project
“I wanted to increase my students’ fluency and competence in fractions, decimals and percents.”
“My primary motivation was to broaden fraction instruction.”
“I was trying to making learning such a ‘scary’ thing (Seven Math Essentials) fun and motivating for the students.”
“I wanted another way to help students develop understanding of fractions.”
What teachers said about first Pilot Project workshop:
“This is a wonderful hands-on way to teach fractions!”
“Fraction Contraption is a great tool for teaching students to measure.”
“It was valuable to learn the statistics about how much fractions and number sense is used in tests.”
“I liked the idea of combining a math and wood/design project into one.”
“We saw the fun and learning that can take place in a simple game.”