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A lot of school children perform well in maths — until the fourth grade onwards, when fractions are introduced in class.

Among maths activities and concepts taught in elementary school, fractions are particularly important because they serve as the foundation for more advanced subjects including physics, chemistry, algebra and statistics. Simply put, mastery of fractions can lead to a child’s proficiency in algebra, and is a better barometer of the child’s future performance in school — even better than his IQ, reading proficiency, family income and education background, memory, and even his knowledge of more basic math concepts.

But what are the main reasons why children are having a difficulty grasping the concepts behind fractions?

One reason why children are performing poorly in class due to fractions is because some of the previous concepts they have learned, particularly multiplying whole numbers, are turned over their heads. For example, with whole numbers, multiplication increases the value of the number while in fractions, the value becomes smaller.

Children also have a hard time visualizing the difference between a circle divided into six and five, as teachers commonly do.

Long before fractions are introduced in the classroom, you can begin teaching your child their basic concepts at home once he has developed his basic counting skills. Instead of focusing on which is the numerator or denominator, which may confuse the child, start off by teaching him what a half means.

Ideally, you should start with figuring out the halves of even numbers like 6, 10, 20, 26, and so on. Once he gets the knack for finding the halves of even numbers, you can proceed to odd numbers like figuring the halves of 3, 13, 21, and so on.

Once your child thoroughly understands the concept of halves, you can proceed to more complex concepts through questions like:

• How do you know when you have the half of something?
• 4 is half of what number?
• How many half sandwiches can you make out of three whole sandwiches?
• What do you get when you add a half and a quarter?

You do not have to wait until fractions are introduced in the classroom. You can begin teaching fractions to your child even while he is in kindergarten or first grade, allowing him to have a firm grasp of the concepts behind the subject even before his peers do. The idea behind this is that you would want to develop in your child the ability to see that a whole is made up of parts.