Original Research

Grade 9 learners’ understanding of fraction concepts: Equality of fractions, numerator and denominator

Methuseli Moyo, France M. Machaba
Pythagoras | Vol 42, No 1 | a602 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v42i1.602 | © 2021 Methuseli Moyo, France M. Machaba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2021 | Published: 21 October 2021

About the author(s)

Methuseli Moyo, Department of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
France M. Machaba, Department of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Our research with Grade 9 learners at a school in Soweto was conducted to explore learners’ understanding of fundamental fraction concepts used in applications required at that level of schooling. The study was based on the theory of constructivism in a bid to understand whether learners’ transition from whole numbers to rational numbers enabled them to deal with the more complex concept of fractions. A qualitative case study approach was followed. A test was administered to 40 learners. Based on their written responses, eight learners were purposefully selected for an interview. The findings revealed that learners’ definitions of fraction were neither complete nor precise. Particularly pertinent were challenges related to the concept of equivalent fractions that include fraction elements, namely the numerator and denominator in the phase of rational number. These gaps in understanding may have originated in the early stages of schooling when learners first conceptualised fractions during the late concrete learning phase. For this reason, we suggest a developmental intervention using physical manipulatives to promote understanding of fractions before inductively guiding learners to construct algorithms and transition to the more abstract applications of fractions required in Grade 9.

Keywords

fraction; equality; numerator; denominator; misconceptions; manipulatives

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