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Monday, February 3, 2014

Making Sense of Multiplying & Dividing Fractions Word Problems

If you teach the upper grades, you likely know how maddening it is to try to teach your students the difference between a multiplication word problem and a division word problem when it comes to fractions. Everything we have taught our kids seems to go out the window!

Once we had the skills down, we moved on to word problems, which some of my students really struggled with. They knew how to divide and multiply fractions, and *sometimes* they could figure out if a word problem was multiplying or dividing, but then some of them didn't know which number should be the dividend vs. the divisor in a division problem. We practiced and practiced, and finally I resorted to an anchor chart and accompanying foldable. We spent an entire hour walking through 8 different word problems that are representative of the types of problems kids most often come across.

My anchor chart before my students got to class.  Ready to go!

I had the students copy the word problems on a foldable so that they could put them into their math journals and reference them later.  I hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should have them take the time to write out the problems themselves or if I should type them onto the foldable, but in the end I decided that I wanted them to write them.  I'm still torn over whether or not this was a productive use of our time.  ;-)
Oops! I just noticed I flip flopped the title pages on this.  Just reverse. :)

Then off we went.  We dissected these word problems, underlined key phrases that they felt helped them to know what type of problem they were reading, and drew visual models for many of them.  The visual models are what really helped to solidify which numbers you were multiplying or dividing.  I wrote the original expression we came up with in black and then any work we did was done in red.  

They all agreed that this helped them to better tell the difference between the two types of problems.  As we speak, I'm typing up a mixed bag of word problems to give them tomorrow and see if it really stuck!  Let's hope so!

I am also having my students work through the word problems in my Multiplying Fractions Task Cards and Dividing Fractions Task Cards.  You can get those at my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.

If you are looking for even more resources for teaching operations with fractions, stop by my store to see the Ultimate Fraction Operations Resource Bundle!


  1. Timely blog- we just started this very topic today, after 3 days off last week down here in the ATL. This is a very tricky skill but your anchor chart is a great tool for my students, too. Looking forward to more on this as you progress, too, through this unit. THANKS, Roberta

  2. We just started our multiplying and dividing fractions unit. I will have to give this a try!

  3. Perfect for where we are...thanks for sharing. Love the kids are hooked on it. They begged for notes the other day! :)

  4. You are amazing! Fractions are such a tough concept for my kids, let alone word problems!!! These are perfect! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Fought this battle today! Thanks for the great idea! We're going to try again tomorrow.


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  7. Do you have the questions in your journal mixed up?

    1. Yes, I think the titles need switched in the journal entry pic.

  8. I love this. I'm going to do this as a review with multi-step word problems.