Simplifying Fractions -- When Prime is Slime!

Simplifying fractions is challenging for students, requiring a process where errors are easy to make.  The process is also difficult conceptually causing students lots of questions.  Here are the questions I hear:

What is "simplifying a fraction"?

Simplifying a fraction is finding its smallest equivalent fraction.

Why do I have to do it?

It's easier to work with smallest equivalent fractions.  

How do I do it?

Divide the numerator and denominator by the Greatest Common Factor or "GCF".  

An Organized Approach

I created a Simplifying Fractions Mat.  The Mat gives students a place to complete T-charts on the numerator and denominator then identify the Greatest Common Factor "GCF".  Once identified, students divide by the GCF to find a simplified fraction.  

How do I know when I'm done?

Simplification is complete when the simplified fraction follows at least one of these 4 rules:

1.  Prime is Slime:  When the numerator and denominator are both prime numbers.

2.  Back to Back Jack:  When the numerator and denominator are back to back on a number line.

3.  One and Done:  The numerator of the simplified fraction is 1.

4.  The "No-Rule" Rule:  Sometimes the simplified fraction doesn't follow a rule (i.e. 2/15).  If this is the rule that the simplified fraction follows, make sure all factor pairs have been recorded in the T-charts and the numerator and denominator have been divided by the GCF.

Simplifying fractions, though very necessary, can be challenging.  I hope the FREE Simplifying Fractions Mat simplifies the process for you and your students.

What method(s) do your students use to simplify fraction?

Resources and Ideas for Teaching Prime and Composite Numbers

Sieve of Eratosthenes

Why Learn About Prime and Composite Numbers?

Dr. Math says: 

"Every time you send a credit card number over the Internet, it gets encrypted by your browser, and the encryption algorithm is based on the theory of prime numbers.  At some point, electronic money will become as common as paper money, and -that- will also be based on the theory of prime numbers.  And, what's used more in the real world than money?"

See the article in full here: Math Forum: Dr. Math

Conceptual Way to Introduce Prime and Composite Numbers

Donna Boucher, Math Coach at Math Coach's Corner, asks her students to identify all arrays of a specific number (i.e. 24).  They are then tasked with creating a poster showing the array, t-chart and organized factor list for each factor pair the class identified.  She hangs the posters around the room and students reflect.  What do you notice?  They may notice some numbers have more factors than others.  Cue vocabulary!  

My summary doesn't do the article justice.  You can access the original article at:

Prime and Composite by Math Coach, Donna Boucher

Video Lessons on Factoring Primes to Simplify Fractions

Math Antics videos are super -engaging and rich with conceptual ideas.  In the Math Antics video: 

Simplifying Fractions Part 1 and Part 2

learners see how to simplify fractions by factoring the numerator and denominator to primes then cancelling common factors.

One of my Favorite Resources

is a no-prep activity written by Shelley Rees, called, 

Prime and Composite Numbers Activities

It contains:
What is a Prime Number?  (Definitions and Explanations)
Cross It Out!  100 Number Grid Activity
Factor It and Label It!  List the factors and label numbers as prime or composite
Prime Puzzle:  Prime/Composite Number Coloring Puzzle
What Number Am I?  Use the process of elimination and number sense to solve number riddles
Prime Number Path  Identify prime and composite numbers and color a path.

All of this can be yours at a bargain price of $3.50

I've seen several ways to teach prime and composite numbers.  What are your favorites?

Free Holiday E-Book with 20 Teacher Tips, freebie links and resource links

Sometimes, as I surf the web, I come across something really awesome.  Like when I came across this free E-book by Shelly Rees.

A lot of the authors of these tips and resources, are authors whose blogs I follow so I was really excited to get all of these freebies!  If you are interested in this free ebook, click on the picture or link  below:

What did you enjoy about his free collection?  

Announcement: Eduphoria's 2019 Annual Bumper Sticker Contest

What's in it for you?
The winner will receive a $250 Amazon Gift Card, 100 Bumper Stickers with their winning slogan on it, and infinite bragging rights!

Previous Winning Slogans -
  • 2018 - I came. I Taught. I'm Still at School.
  • 2017 - You Had Me at Jeans Pass!
  • 2016 -  Will Work for School Supplies!

Click here to Enter!

A Teacher’s Guide to Teacher Appreciation – Awesome Ways to Honor Fellow Teachers

Building Morale at Your School

How do you contribute to a positive morale at your school?  This year our teachers are participating in a voluntary "Sunshine Buddy" program.  Interested teachers put their name in a hat and they are matched with a secret Buddy to have a Buddy and to be a Buddy. 

There are many ways to appreciate your fellow teachers.  There are literally thousands of candy gifts with clever gift tags.  (Who doesn’t love chocolate or candy?)  A  big fave where I live is to treat our buddy to a Sonic (drive-in restaurant) drink.  Here are some other less obvious choices for ways to honor your Sunshine Buddy. 

Share an activity

It’s Fall; time for everything pumpkin – pumpkin DQ blizzards, pumpkin creamer, even pumpkin ice cream!  As I was browsing in Pinterest, looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving, I came across an awesome idea for an activity for a new Thanksgiving pumpkin tradition.  It only requires a pumpkin, permanent marker,  and gratitude.

Wouldn’t this be a fun activity for a classroom?  Children 
tell what they are thankful for and it goes on the
Thanksgiving pumpkin.  To share it with my sunshine buddy, I just buy a pumpkin (we can get this size for $4) and add a permanent market and cute gift tag describing the activity.  Or to make a gift tag, just print this picture and attach it.  

It’s pretty self-explanatory.  If desired, you can direct your Sunshine Buddy to One Artsy Mama where your buddy can read all about this Thanksgiving tradition.

Share supplies
What supplies are already in short supply?  Post-it notes?  
Glue sticks?  Expo markers?  Look for volume sales and when you find a good price, while you’re picking up something for yourself, get a few extra for your sunshine buddy.  Looking for a cute way to package them?  If they are small enough, put them in a mason jar.  

Here is a blog post from theSpruceCrafts for 

Check out this Glue Stick Teacher Gift Idea with a free printable gift tag: 

Make a craft

There are literally thousands of ideas on Pinterest for making Teacher Appreciation gifts for your Sunshine Buddy.  Sometimes just by viewing the ideas, you may come up with one of your own.  It can be as easy as this:

If your Sunshine Buddy has a  DonorsChoose project

donation is an awesome way to show some love.  When you go to DonorsChoose, you can search by zip code or by school to see if your buddy has a project for which funding is requested.  Another way is to contribute to a classroom library.  Have a book fair coming up?  Teachers often fill out a “wish list” during the book fair.  Sunshine buddies can access the wish list and treat their Sunshine Buddy for a classroom book that students will enjoy now and for years to come.  A third way is to purchase item(s) from a teacher’s Amazon Wish List (if they have one) or give an Amazon gift card.

Give your Sunshine Buddy a Break!

Is there a specific duty for which your Sunshine Buddy is responsible?  In a school setting everyone has extra duties they are responsible for – for some it’s morning duty, afternoon duty, recess duty, bathroom duty, and so forth.
Volunteer to take over your Sunshine Buddy’s duty.  Sometimes filling in for your Sunshine buddy can be more valuable than any kind of gift.  Have a Fall Carnival coming up?  Donate candy or other requested supplies on behalf of your Sunshine Buddy – Check!  Our school has a monthly potluck luncheon.  Bring a dish for your Sunshine Buddy and let your Sunshine Buddy know they can put their feet up and rest the night before the Potluck and then come the next day and enjoy the delicious food! 

There are many other ways to treat your Sunshine Buddy.  Next time you find yourself saying, “Wow!  I wish someone would do this for me,” consider if your Sunshine Buddy might be saying the same thing.  

What does your campus do to promote morale?  Please comment below.  THANKS!

BUCKS - A Successful Problem-Solving Strategy

In Mrs. Curry's 5th grade Math class, the emphasis is on strategies.  Every solution starts with a strategy and every word problem is solved using a problem-solving strategy called BUCKS.

Mrs. Curry's Problem-solving bulletin board


There are a lot of problem-solving strategies out there - so I asked Mrs. Curry, the 5th grade Math Teacher at our Elementary school:  

Why BUCKS?  

Mrs. Curry,  said, 

"I love BUCKS because for my 5th graders, it helps them understand exactly what the question is asking and how to find their answers. We have adapted it as we need, such as adding a strategy box under the “S” so that they know exactly what they’re planning to use to solve. This way, if they have to revisit the problem, they know what they did & why."

BUCKS in Action

 Here is a word problem, solved using the problem-solving graphic organizer, "BUCKS":

What Makes BUCKS Successful?

Having a strong Problem-Solving Strategy is key to problem-solving success IF students use it. 

Mrs. Curry introduced BUCKS early and students already know and understand the acronym and use it for their problem-solving.  Mrs. Curry explained to students early on that using BUCKS is her minimum expectation in their problem solving and she enforces it. She tells her students that she will provide to them the strategies that work and will help them to be successful.  The students' part in the success equation is to use them.   

 Mrs. Curry has students write the initials, BUCKS on their papers and cross off each initial as they do it.

Bottom line, with a strong problem-solving strategy, consistency will produce successful results.  


Does your school use BUCKS or something else?  If you use a different problem-solving strategy, and it produces successful results, please share it and tell why it's successful so this blog's readership can learn more about problem-solving strategies.
Thank you for reading this blog.  I love to offer helpful ideas to teachers.  Do you have a question or concern you would like to have researched and addressed?  Comment on this blog with your question or concern and if chosen, it will be the subject of a future blogpost!  

Math in Picture Books: Featured Author Danica McKellar

We watcher her grow up as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years.  

Fred Savage and Danica McKellar in The Wonder Years

She played Elsie Snuffin in The West Wing.  She’s the voice of Miss Martian in Young Justice.  She has starred in several Hallmark Channel movies, including Crown for Christmas, My Christmas Dream, and Campfire Kiss.  But, these are only a few of the many film and television roles, played by Actress, Danica McKellar.  (For more on Danica's acting credits, click Danica McKellar Filmography)

Danica's off-camera roles include summa cum laude graduate from UCLA with B.S. in mathematics, internationally recognized mathematician, education advocate, and best-selling author of the most beautiful counting book called, GOODNIGHT, NUMBERS, among other best-selling books featuring math.

Danica McKellar reading GOODNIGHT, NUMBERS with her son, Draco.

GOODNIGHT, NUMBERS is a math picture book that features beautiful watercolor illustrations of different families saying Goodnight to Numbers as they exist in the real world – four legs on a cat, five points on a star, six sides on a block, etc.   Reading this book to children shows them how numbers are an integral part of their world.

For example, here is an excerpt featuring number 3:

This page was modeled after Danica and her son, Draco.  Their dog, Sparticus, is on the couch.  Draco is playing with his favorite trash toys: trash, recycling, and green waste.  There are several groups of 3 (three buttons on the couch pillow, 3 couch pillows, 3 flowers embroidered on the couch scarf, three stripes on the lamp, 3 wheels on the tricycle, three stars on the toy box, even three buttons on Draco’s shirt, etc.)  Each page features a 10-frame illustrating the featured number.  In this case, it’s a picture on the wall of 3 groups of 3. 

I love this picture book  

As a math interventionist, one of my biggest goals/hopes/desires is for students to see the world as a mathematical world and not to fear math.  Danica McKellar is an author that shares this goal.  Danica’s blog entry entitled, “Why Math?” tells why Danica was attracted to math.

Here are some of my favorite quotes by Danica McKellar:

To read more of Danica McKellar's quotes, go to 

Danica McKellar Quotes

To learn more about Danica McKellar, visit her website 

Danica is the author of several picture books and middle-school books about Math.  Her middle school books focus on making math accessible, particularly to girls.  To find her books, go to McKellar Math.  Once there you can navigate her list of books by pressing your finger along an interactive slider starting at the lowest point (infants) to the highest point (adults) to select books by intended audience age.   

Who's your favorite math author?  I'd love to know!  Thank you for reading my post.  If you have any thoughts or questions, please comment.  

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