Fishy Fractions - adding/subtracting unlike denominators task cards + printables

Grade Levels
4th, 5th, 6th
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15.76 MB   |   18 pages


Help build your students’ proficiency with adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators with this set of task cards and printables. The 32 task cards will provide your students with the necessary practice to build skills with addition and subtraction with unlike denominators. Extend your students’ practice (or evaluate their level of mastery) with the four included assessment activities. With these resources, your students will grow stronger in their understanding of key fractional computation concepts.

NOTE: This product is available as part of my Adding & Subtracting Unlike Denominators bundle. This bundle includes three different sets of task cards & printables, a set of self-checking puzzles, and two sets of I Have…Who Has? cards that are only available in the bundle – and you can save over 20% on the cost of the individual products!


Common Core State Standards for Mathematics addressed:
Numbers and Operations – Fractions (5.NF)
Use equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions.
• Add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators (including mixed numbers) by replacing given fractions with equivalent fractions in such a way as to produce an equivalent sum or difference of fractions with like denominators. For example, 2/3 + 5/4 = 8/12 + 15/12 = 23/12. (In general, a/b + c/d = (ad + bc)/bd.) (5.NF.1)

This set is a follow-up to my Foxy Fractions task card set. That set addressed the same concept of adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators but used only fractions in which one fraction could be renamed to have the same denominator as the other. If you are looking for some materials to use as an introduction to adding and subtracting with unlike denominators, the Foxy Fractions set may be a useful starting point.

This Fishy Fractions set primarily uses fractions in which both fractions have to be renamed (such as 3/8 + 1/6 to 9/24 + 4/24) or in which one fraction has to be renamed more than one time (such as 7/12 + 6/9 to 7/12 + 2/3 to 7/12 + 8/12). There are even some equations which can be easily solved by renaming one fraction if the students are savvy about fraction names (for instance, 12/4 – 5/6 to 3 – 5/6). My goal was to provide practice with renaming as a strategy for solving problems while opening up opportunities for multiple ways to work through a problem beyond the standard “find the lowest common denominator” method, which is often but not always the most efficient method to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators.

• 2 graphic reference sheets
• 32 task cards
• task card answer sheet and key
• 4 activity sheets and key/scoring guide

Introducing the Concept

Before you have your students work with the cards, you can use one of the included graphic reference sheets as a review of strategies for adding and subtracting with unlike denominators. The first of the two graphic reference sheets is half-page size and presents the terms “added”, “sum”, “minuend”, “subtrahend”, and “difference” in the context of addition and subtraction equations. [NOTE: This reference sheet is nearly identical to one of the reference sheets found in my Froggy Fractions and Foxy Fractions task card sets.] The second reference sheet is full-page size and shows students two different ways that renaming can be used to find the sum of two fractions with unlike denominators. Before you have your students complete the cards, you can have them glue the reference sheets in their journals. Since the terms “minued”, “subtrahend”, and “added” are only used on cards 17 through 32, you may wish to introduce the full-page reference sheet when your students first begin working on the cards and then provide them with the half-page reference sheet before they work on cards 17 through 32. Your students can use the journal inserts as guides while they work on the cards, as well as when they complete other tasks that relate to adding and subtracting with like denominators.

Alternatively, you may introduce the cards by having your students work through one of the communication-based assessment tasks included in this set. Two of the tasks present an equation as well as the work of two hypothetical students who found the correct unknown but used different methods to solve the equation. Your students will have to examine the presented work and compare the strategies the given students used. One or both of these tasks can be a springboard to a rich classroom conversation about different ways that a single equation can be solved, priming them to think a little outside the box when working through the equations on the cards.

Practicing the Concept

The first 16 cards in this set present equations with unknown sums and differences. The second 16 cards up the challenge level by presenting equations with missing addends, minuends, and subtrahends. [One of the two reference sheets provides a quick review of the vocabulary used to describe the elements of addition and subtraction equations.] In addition, select cards in each half (cards 9-16 and cards 25-32) use a mix of proper and improper fractions. The variety of numbers and question types on the cards allows for differentiation to the needs of your students. You can choose to have all the students complete the first 16 cards and then the second 16, or you can have some students work on cards 1 through 16 while those students who are more proficient with fraction relationships can work on cards 17 through 32. Alternately, you might have students complete cards 1-8 and 17 through 24 (which have only proper fractions), and then complete the other cards to practice the same skills with improper fractions. You can meet a variety of needs with this one set of cards!

There are lots of ways in which you can implement the task cards. You can have the students work on them independently, working through the task cards on their own. The students can work on them in pairs or small groups, completing all the task cards in one session. You can use them in centers, having the students complete 6-8 task cards a day over the course of the week. You can even use them as a variation of “problem of the day”, giving each student 1 sheet of 4 cards to glue in their journals and solve, one sheet per day for eight days.

Assessing Student Understanding

The four provided activity sheets can be used to evaluate student understanding of adding and subtracting fraction with unlike denominators. Two of the activity pages are relatively straightforward, with each containing 9 addition and subtraction equations for which the students must find the unknowns. As with the task cards, all of the equations can be solved by finding the LCD of the fractions, but a number of the fractions were chosen to allow for alternate solution strategies. The other two activity sheets are designed to address a student’s ability to analyze solution strategies, presenting the students with a problem as well as the work of two students who arrived at the correct answer but used different methods and then asking them to compare the two students’ methods.

The pairs of worksheets are formatted similarly, and have similar types of questions, though the numbers on each are different. You can use these activity pages in a variety of ways. You could give one as a pre-test, then teach your lesson and allow students to practice with the task cards, and then give the second worksheet as an independent post-test. You could also have the students work on the task cards, then complete one of the worksheet as guided practice with yourself, a partner, or a small group, and then give the second worksheet as an independent assessment. The worksheets could also be given as homework, center assignments, or any other purpose that fits your teaching style or classroom routines.

For more practice with fractions, please check out the other related resources I have available –

Mastering the Practices instruction & assessment tasks – fraction of a number

Fraction Puzzlers – fraction story problems task cards + printables (set b)

In and Around - area and perimeter task cards + printables (set C)

Name That Equation fraction multiplication task cards + printables set

Fraction Attack – simplifying fraction ppt + printables set

Fraction Matchin’ equivalent fractions task cards + printables (set a)

I hope your students enjoy these resources and are able to build their proficiency with fractions. – Dennis McDonald
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Fishy Fractions - adding/subtracting unlike denominators t
Fishy Fractions - adding/subtracting unlike denominators t
Fishy Fractions - adding/subtracting unlike denominators t
Fishy Fractions - adding/subtracting unlike denominators t
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