Teaching fractions and decimals to children aged 3 to 11

Researchers: Professor Rose Griffiths | Dr Jenni Back ...

Project overview


This research will build on a previous Nuffield-funded project which helped primary school teachers to develop a wider repertoire of approaches to teaching arithmetic using manipulatives. This project will use similar principles to extend primary teachers’ understanding of fractions and decimals.

Fractions and decimals have long been recognised as being difficult to teach well. Previous research has shown that pupils in secondary schools continue to lack fluency in this area of mathematics, indicating that more needs to be done in primary schools to strengthen foundational knowledge. Primary school teachers’ own knowledge and understanding is a key component to this challenge because those who lack confidence in their own subject knowledge of fractions and decimals typically struggle to ensure that children develop a sound conceptual understanding. This project will therefore create well-organised, easy to use, research-based guidance that will improve teachers’ confidence and competence in teaching fractions and decimals. This in turn will allow teachers to engage with their pupils in a more purposeful and interesting way, and ultimately improve pupils’ understanding and fluency.

The first phase of the project will involve reviewing existing research on the teaching of fractions and decimals for children aged 3 to 11 and examining teacher guidance and pupil textbook materials from the last 60 years. The researchers will work with schools in three different geographical areas to examine current practice, ensuring different catchments and contexts. The second phase will develop guidance on teaching fractions and decimals, with two aims: to build teachers’ own subject knowledge, and to enrich their repertoire of teaching activities.

The guidance will be published as a book for teachers with accompanying videos, plus animations for children, via Oxford University Press. The findings will be communicated at professional development and conference presentations in the UK and internationally. Other outputs include an up-to-date review of research for a professional audience and a free public report for a general audience. 

Team


  • Professor Rose Griffiths
    University of Leicester
  • Dr Jenni Back
    University of Leicester
  • Dr Sue Gifford
    University of Roehampton

  • Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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