Tackling 5th Grade Fractions through Math Stories

By Steph Primiani, Director of STEM

Why 5th Grade Fractions?

Claire walked 2
25 miles. Jason walked 23 as far as Claire. How many miles did Jason walk?

Are you sweating yet?
This is the type of story problem students need to be able to do by the end of 5th grade, yet across Rhode Island, most kids can’t. Dan Yorke State of Mind1
interviewed RI Education Commissioner Ken Wagner this past July and asked about the lack of progress in Rhode Island’s Math PARCC scores. Yorke remarked, “Language skills, reading, a little bit better, a little bit of progress. But the Math, in the dumper. What is going on?” Wagner’s response was shocking in its simplicity: “We have a problem with fractions.”


Fractions Cartoon "I'd like to meet you halfway, but I'm terrible with fractions."

Understanding of elementary fractions is the strongest predictor of success in Algebra 1. – Siegler et al., 2012


I am confident that the 5th grade scholars at Blackstone Valley Prep, where I am the Director of STEM, are ready to take on fractions this year, thanks in part to a program called Math Stories.


What is Math Stories?

  • A conceptual approach to solving complex story problems, launched by Achievement First in 2014-2015.
  • Structured protocol used in tandem with schools’ own curriculum to help teachers and students accelerate their math learning.
  • Punctuated moments where students explain their representations to a thought partner, respond to a targeted discussion question, and revise their initial thinking2.

Math Stories Graphic

Follow Our Journey!

  1. With the help of materials from FirstLine Schools in New Orleans, BVP is going to pilot a 5th grade version of Math Stories focusing solely on 5th grade fraction story problems!
  2. We will document our journey with video, student work, teacher and student interviews, data progress, and more via the Field Memo.
  3. Have questions? Reach out to BVP’s Director of STEM, Steph Primiani, at sprimiani@blackstonevalleyprep.org and follow me on Twitter @stephprimiani



2Check out this video of Math Stories in action in 1st grade at BVP during the 17-18 school year.