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Creative Ideas for Teaching Decimals

Despite their simplicity, decimals can cause headaches for teachers and students alike. Students have difficulty understanding why they should learn decimals, and even more trouble with remembering their decimal points. Teachers grow frustrated trying to teach what should be a relatively easy concept, and that frustration increases in direct proportion to the difficulties their students are having. One easy way to avoid the frustration and headaches is to use creative methods for teaching decimals.

First Things First
Pointing this out may seem silly, but it is something that many teachers fail to do. Students need to understand how concepts like fractions and decimals serve any useful purpose in their world. Pointing out the use of decimals in monetary amounts is a great way to get their attention and emphasize the importance of the material.

Students also need to know that decimals, fractions, and percentages are the same thing. Money helps with this, too, because you can point out that twenty-five cents is one quarter, or one-fourth, of one dollar and is also written as $0.25. Once students grasp that 1/4, 25% and 0.25 are all the same, it makes all three concepts easier. Rather than learning all about fractions and decimals and percentages, they are learning all about three ways of relating the same value.

Creative Teaching Ideas
Once students understand that fractions, decimals and percentages are all the same thing, there are a great deal of creative ways to teach decimals.

  • One way of teaching decimals is to play a game of Bingo.  Instead of calling out spaces, call out fractions.  Students then figure out which decimal value on their Bingo card goes with that fraction.  You can start out with basic fractions,like one-tenth, one-fourth, one-half, etc., then advance to fractions that require the student to calculate the decimal.
  • Create a menu for the students, or you can use one from a local restaurant.  Do not have even decimal amounts like: 0.50 or 0.00 for all of the prices. Tell students they have a certain amount to spend on their meal and let them choose from the menu. This requires adding decimals.
    • A variation of this is to divide the class into two groups. The first group is the customers who place orders, while the second group is the wait staff who take the orders.  The wait staff is required to present the customers with a bill, which customers should double-check before paying.
    • Another variation is to give students a certain amount of money with which to shop.  Give them sales circulars from local stores and let them make a shopping list of the items they can afford with the money they have. This could be an opportunity to work in sales tax, also, if your students are ready for it.
  • When teaching students to compare decimals, make sure students know the names of the place values. Begin teaching comparison using decimals that all have the same name, which may require adding zeros to the end of some numbers.  For example, 0.09 and 0.052 are read, “nine-hundredths” and “52 thousandths.”  If you change 0.09 to 0.090, however, it becomes “ninety thousandths.”  Comparisons are much easier this way.
  • Set up shop.  Stock your class store with small candy, notebooks, pencils, and other small items.  Reward students with fake money, making sure to give coins and bills.  At the end of the day, week, or other interval, let students make purchases using their reward money.  Set prices so they will have to add decimal amounts while deciding what to buy.

Pay attention to things you do each day, and you will probably find several activities that involve the use of decimals. Find ways to apply those activities in your classroom. This makes the lesson interesting, and it shows the student how this information applies in the world outside of the classroom. Do not be afraid to take baby steps with the students, and be creative in the methods that you use. Students will have an easier time learning, and you will have an easier time teaching.

Article thanks to: www.lesson-plan.org