I teach the upper grades in my school, yet I continue to see kids who do not even have basic algebra skills in place. As a parent, I'm very aware of what my own children are learning in school. For the most part, I've been happy with their progress, but as they rise in grade level, I'm starting to see more emphasis on a loose understanding of the concepts and less emphasis on skills__particularly skills with arithmetic of fractions. The main problem with what I see with my students and my own children is that kids are taught "concepts" and are not taught skills__unless they're lucky enough to have a teacher who knows better. Most particularly, children are not taught mastery of arithmetic with fractions. Unfortunately, virtually all of their future math education depends on being able to do fractional arithmetic.

There are several standard exercises which train students to convert percentages, decimals and fractions. Converting percentage to decimals for example is actually as simple as moving the decimal point two places to the left and losing the percent sign "%." Thus 89% is equal to 0ቑ. Expressed in fraction, that would be 89럼. When you drill kids to do this often enough, they learn to do conversion almost instinctively. Ratios and proportions are likewise wonderful math lessons with plenty of interesting practical applications. If three pans of pizza, one kilo of spaghetti, two buckets of chicken can properly feed 20 hungry friends, then how much pizza, spaghetti and chicken does mom need to prepare for birthday party with 30 kids?

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