Friday, July 30, 2010


Today I had the pleasure of taking part in a sweet breakthrough moment of a to-be fourth grader whom I've been tutoring over the summer. He's a bright student, although he does process things a bit differently. Things like word probems are really challenging. For the past four weeks I've really gotten to know the brilliance of his mind.

During our last tutoring session on Tuesday, I discovered how difficult fractions were for him. The worksheet I gave him had pictures clearly drawn out with segmented and shaded boxes. This stumped him. What number was he supposed to write on the top? Which one on the bottom? Do you count the white ones or the dark ones? He wrote down a variety of interesting answers and explained unique ways as to how he got the answers. After showing him a few different ways of looking at it, he came to the point of faking understanding. We moved on.

I was a bit perplexed after that session and was trying to wrap my mind around how difficult this was for him. Something as simple as "two of the shaded three boxes equals 2/3" did not make sense to him. How was he seeing it that I wasn't? More so, I wanted to figure out how I could show him in a way that would make sense to him. Nothing brilliant coming to me, I let it be.

Days later, while driving, a time where all my greatest ideas seem to come to me, I remembered something about this boy that might help him understand fractions. He is musically talented and severely more so than most. "Talented" would be an understatement, considering this boy is a phenomenal drummer and has been since he was three. So I came up with a way to portray fractions to his musical oriented mind.

During our session today I asked him to get his hands ready. Not knowing what I was talking about he looked at me confused. I told him, "We are going to drum." His eyes lit up, and I could tell he was trying to figure out what fractions had to do with drumming. Taking our two thirds example, I told him to make a continuous base beat with one hand that emphasized every three.

He begin to tap out, "one, two, three... one, two, three... one, two, three..." on his right hand.

Once he had that I then told him, "Now we are going to make our left hand only tap out two of every three beats." He looked at me, smiled, and started. Before long, he was tapping out his fractions on his hands with the sweetest smile and brightest eyes a boy can give.

Coming to the moment of truth I asked him, "What fraction of the time is your left hand hitting the table." I nearly held my breath in hopes of him answering this most likely confusing question. Without much delay I heard, "two-thirds" come from his lips.

"And what fraction is your right hand doing the work?" I threw in just for fun.

"Three......(pause) no... ONE."

In that moment, I don't think either of us could have been much happier.