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Abstract

Barb Leapard’s chapter discusses a problem that might cause many of us nightmares—fractions. Barb’s students really need to understand how to work with fractions, because they will soon be teaching this subject to their elementary school students. The need to teach a subject requires a significantly higher form of learning than most students achieve. Barb’s past experiences indicated that students often do not achieve this deep understanding – they may have a rote understanding of rules for dealing with fractions, but this will not be all that useful to them in a few months, when they are teaching inquisitive elementary school students how to work with fractions.

Barb’s approach to this project was quite innovative. She used “think-alouds” to record (audio and video) her students working on fractional problems. By forcing them to be explicit about their processes, Barb was able to identify and catalog many common errors. And, by getting student to explain what they were doing as they did it, Barb’s students learned fractions as if they were teaching it. This becomes a nice example of situated learning: Barb’s students were learning in an identical situation that in which they would have to apply their knowledge. Moreover, listening to and watching the tapes will provide a useful source of data for Barb to use in examining her teaching; it is safe to say that she will never teach this course quite the same way as a result of this experience.

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