Adding & Subtracting Fractions

Adding and Subtracting Fractions – Cut the Cheese

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Teaching Adding and Subtracting Fractions is by far the most frustrating topic for High School Teachers. If you only teach middle school you have an enormous impact on how much of a headache your students’ high school math classes will be. I have been teaching for over 10 years and by far the most frustrating thing every year is how many of my students get to me and do not know how to Add, Subtract, Multiply, and Divide Fractions.

Reviewing How to Add and Subtract Fractions

Every year I spend time reviewing this in every class because I feel it is worth my time to make sure they master this concrete skill that is essential to life, not just math class. It makes everything easier on both them and myself in the long run.


Some students will come in only knowing how to type them into a calculator and get a decimal answer. This is unacceptable! We have to do a better job when teaching Adding and Subtracting Fractions.

Here are 2 Tips to Help you Teach Adding and Subtracting Fractions

1.) Make sure they clearly understand that Multiplying by a for of 1 doesn’t change the value of the number.

  • Ex. 1/2 of a Pizza is EXACTLY the SAME amount of Pizza as 2/4 of a Pizza. It is just cut up into more pieces.
  • This will help them understand finding a common denominator isn’t actually changing the number’s value just the way it is cut up!

2.) When you teach your first example of finding a common denominator make sure you use a real-world example with pictures or even a real pizza that you cut up.

  • If you want to throw a little humor into it use a cheese wheel so that you will say “cut the cheese” in class. This is what I do and they will never forget it!
  • Don’t just throw a problem up on the board and start talking. You will lose them quickly. There are so many real-world uses for this lesson. Use them!

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