Eating Fractions, by Bruce McMillan

Fractions are a hard concept for many children to learn. This is an easy and delicious way to teach the children the vocabulary of fractions.


  • Enough tangerines or sectioned oranges for everyone to have an equal piece for tasting.
  • Pictures of many food samples (from magazines, the internet, or photos)
  • One pool noodle cut into pieces (see the video under After Reading the Story)
  • Plastic Easter eggs. About 4-6
  • 1 index card per child with their first and last name written upon it


  • Fraction (the parts that make up the whole object)
  • Whole (an entire object)
  • Part (a piece of an object)
  • Half (one of two equal parts of the whole)

Before Reading the Story

           Bring a tangerine or sectioned orange to the rug time.  Ask the children if they know what it is called, where it comes from, what color, etc?   Do all of this as you unpeel the fruit.  Show the children that the fruit is divided into parts.  Explain that all together it is whole.  Break the fruit in half.  Show the children how the two halves make a whole.  Show the children how the fruit can be divided into smaller pieces.  Once it is all apart (count the parts), show the children how it all fits back together to be a whole.  Make sure you have enough pieces for each child to taste (you might have to bring an extra tangerine or two depending upon your group size).  The children can talk about the taste, smell, texture, and juice of the fruit as they sample.

Science/Scientific Skills & Methods; begins to use senses and a variety of tools and simple measuring devices to gather information, investigate materials, and observe processes and relationships.

Reading the Story

            On each page count the number of pieces.

Mathematics/Numbers & Operations; begins to associate number concepts, vocabulary, quantities, and written numerals in meaningful ways.

After Reading the Story

Bring out the pool noodle that you have cut and labeled. For preschoolers I would use 1-1/4 to start. Have one child hold the ‘1’ piece in the front of the classroom. Hold up one of the ‘1/2’ pieces and ask the children how many of the ‘1/2’ pieces it will take to make the ‘1’? Ask two children to come up and hold the ‘1/2’ pieces up to the ‘1’ piece. Show the children the 2 in 1/2. Now hold up a ‘1/3’ piece and point to the 3. Ask the children to guess how many pieces of the ‘1/3’ it will take to make the ‘1’? Do this for the ‘1/4’ piece also. Now ask the children to count how many children are in your group time. Ask them how many children it would take to make your whole group? Write the fraction onto a piece of paper (1 classroom=1/12) and tack it to the wall.


            Share with the children the various food pictures.  Discuss with them the importance of eating a variety of foods.  Ask the children to name the food items and sort by food groups.  Ask them to sort by the food that they like to eat and do not like to eat.  Sort the foods by ones that are crunchy and ones that are soft. 

Mathematics/Patterns & Measurement; shows increasing abilities to match, sort, put in a series, and regroup objects according to one or two attributes such as shape or size.

Music and Movement

Teach the first verse of the Fractions Song by Mr.R. As the children get comfortable with fractions you can introduce them to the remainder of the song.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to put together and take shapes apart.


Bring the pool noodle parts to the center for the children to manipulate and play with. Encourage them to use blocks in the same manner.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to put together and take shapes apart.

            Show the children how to take small shaped blocks and make larger shapes. (2 small rectangle blocks put side by side makes a square block, 4 triangle blocks put together also makes a square block).  Encourage the children to manipulate the blocks to make new shapes.  How many blocks did it take?  Note the wholes and halves as you construct.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to put together and take shapes apart.


           Make many circles in several sizes.  Cut the circles up into halves and quarters.  Show the children how they can collage the parts and make whole circle shapes.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to put together and take shapes apart.

Library and Writing

For older children write their first and last name on an index card. Show them that the first name is one half of their name and their last name is the other half of their name. Encourage them to practice writing their whole name by copying onto a piece of paper with a marker or pencil.

Literacy/Early Writing; progresses from using scribbles, shapes, or pictures to represent ideas, to using letter-like symbols, to copying or writing familiar words such as their own name.

Put the book into the center and as the children look at it, help them to count how many parts make the whole.

Mathematics/Number & Operations; begins to make use of one-to-one correspondence in counting objects and matching groups of objects.

Sand and Water

            Put plastic eggs into the table with sand.  The children can use the egg halves to scoop and pour.  They can put two halves together to make a whole egg and bury it under the sand.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to put together and take shapes apart. AND Mathematics/Number & Operations; develops increased abilities to combine, separate and name “how many” concrete objects

Dramatic Play

            As children move about the center today ask them to name the various plastic foods that you have.

Language Development/Speaking & Communicating; uses an increasingly complex and varied spoken vocabulary.

Math and Manipulatives

            Give the children pieces of paper.  Show them how to fold them in half vertically and then open up the paper.  Show them how to fold the paper in half horizontally and then open the paper up.  Give the children scissors and show them how to cut the paper in half and then into quarters.  Ask the children to then put the pieces back together to make a whole piece of paper.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to put together and take shapes apart. AND Physical Health & Development/Fine Motor Skills; develops growing strength, dexterity, and control needed to use tools such as scissors, paper punch, stapler, and hammer.

Outdoor Play

            Play Red Rover.  Tell the children that you have to divide the class in half.  Half goes to one side of the playing field and half goes to the other side of the playing field.  Take turns calling children from one half/side over and then from the other.  The child must follow the movement direction to come over (Red Rover, Red Rover let Kerry skip over.  Red Rover, Red Rover let Roger walk backwards over).  The child comes over and joins hands with the rest of the children on that half. 

Physical Health & Development/Gross Motor SKills; shows increasing levels of proficiency, control, and balance in walking, climbing, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, marching, and galloping.


            As the children go to the next activity, ask them if they can name a food from a food group.  Can you name a meat?  Can you name a fruit?  Or you can use your pictures of food and hold up two at a time asking, which is the fruit, which is the meat?

Approaches to Learning/Reasoning & Problem Solving; develops increasing abilities to classify, compare, and contrast objects, events, and experiences.


About Kerry CI am an Early Childhood Educator who has seen daily the value of shared book readings with my preschoolers. I use the book theme in my centers and can daily touch upon a variety of Early Childhood Domains which makes assessing the children easy and individualized.