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Math Vocabulary: Fraction

Math vocabulary word of the day: fraction!

When teaching math, there is the language of the student, the teacher, and THEN the language of mathematics. As we worked on this word study, we grappled with which definition to use as the math definition does not match that of the word study. As we dug into various definitions of a fraction using teacher and mathematics language, we were reminded of how ambiguous teaching fractions can be!

We tried picking a student-friendly definition of breaking a whole into equal parts but that doesn’t hold in math through many situations. By framing it as equal parts we leave out that sometimes they are NOT equal.

We don’t have to break a pizza into equal parts! One side can be fourths and the other sixths — and that’s okay. 😉

So we opted for a broader, student-friendly definition that follows the morphology.

Fract – “to break”
Fraction – to break a whole into parts

This morphology is an entry point to teaching mathematics. Fractions are one of the most deceiving topics to teach because you THINK it will be cut and dry (see what we did there? 🤣) but it really isn’t. Students need multiple entry points and hands-on experiences to really grasp all the myriad ways that fractions work.

At its simplest definition, a fraction is a whole broken into parts.

What student-friendly language do you use to define a fraction?

Why is it that we oft forget the importance of math vocabulary? In reading instruction, it is always included as part of the programming but often in mathematics instruction, it is breezed over.

Neurodiverse students especially need to be taught directly the roots, prefixes, and suffixes not only in everyday reading but in math vocabulary too! This is called Morphology.

What Is Morphology?

Morphology, a word of Greek origin, combines “morphe,” meaning form, and “ology,” meaning the study of. Morphing creates mental pictures of children’s toys such as LEGO™ bricks that click together to create new forms beyond a rectangular prism.


Building a Spaceship!

Morphology works in much the same manner, with students manipulating the parts of words to create new meanings or altered, but similar, meanings.

Below in this video, we’re studying the word ‘fraction’.

Click to watch this super quick video!

Tap for Video Transcript Here


Origin: Latin Stem frangere “to break”

fract – Break

break the cookie

Break the sandwich. (yum)

The suffix ion – means it’s a state, condition, or action.

word-forming element attached to verbs, making nouns of state, condition, or action, from French -ion or directly from Latin -ionem (nominative -io, genitive -ionis), common suffix forming abstract nouns from verbs.

What do you think fraction means? Let’s look at other words that have the fract- in it.

fracture. Fract means “to break”

infraction means “to break a rule or law”

what do you think fraction means? 

Fraction means – to break a whole into parts. 

A whole chocolate bar can be broken into parts.

A whole pizza can be broken into parts. 

A whole circle can be broken into parts

A whole rectangle can be broken into parts. 

Fraction – to break a whole into parts





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