What is it about?

Most U.S. schools introduce fractions around 3rd grade, but our study showed many children have some informal knowledge of fractions in 1st grade. Even though they didn’t know written symbols for fractions, many first graders could answer questions about visual representations of fractions in everyday contexts like equal sharing or making one half of a whole. This study tracked how this informal fraction knowledge changed from the beginning to end of the school year in 103 first graders. This study, like lots of other research shows that early experiences with math matter a lot! Children start first grade with a wide range of math skills, and kids who started with better whole number skills tended to have better fraction skills at the end of the year. Students’ whole number and fraction skills at the beginning of first grade also predicted their math achievement later.

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Why is it important?

Even before learning about fractions in school, many children show informal knowledge of fractions that improves over the school year. Our findings suggest that children may benefit from more opportunities to build and expand on this informal fraction knowledge in kindergarten and early elementary school. Early, informal experiences with fractions (e.g., playful activities with visual models of halves and fourths) may help set kids up for success in math.


A lot of people struggle with fractions or have some anxiety about dealing with fraction symbols, but some of the key foundations are things kids can pick up through everyday interactions and play. I hope this article encourages researchers and caregivers/educators to take the next step: explore opportunities to build those foundations and connect them to formal fraction learning.

Alexandria Viegut
University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Tracking informal fraction knowledge and its correlates across first grade., Developmental Psychology, August 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/dev0001581.
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