Monday, July 25, 2011

Making Nautical Fraction Flags

When my son came home from his math summer camp with a table of fractions in his backpack, I thought, “Really?” Could a soon-to-be first-grader really comprehend fractions? Why not? To supplement whatever my son had picked up in this classroom of multi-aged kiddos, I decided to whip up some fractions of our own.

I was inspired by nautical flags. They’re geometry was perfect for a lesson in fractions! To prep for the activity I bought five colors of fabric, some muslin, Pellon Wonder-Under, and a package of four square cork bulletin boards. I attached the Wonder-Under to my colored fabrics and cut each into shapes to match the patterns on four nautical flags that demonstrated the fractions 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, and 1/8. I cut the muslin into squares bigger than my cork boards.

Then I ran freezer paper that I’d cut to 8 ½ by 11 inches through my printer and printed some labels. (You can download the labels here.) If you’ve ever worked with freezer paper, you know that its waxy side will temporarily adhere to fabric when pressed with an iron set to medium-high heat. I cut the shaped labels out and ironed them onto my fabric shapes.

When it came time to start our lesson in fractions, we read Loreen Leedy’s “Fraction Action.” This book has great illustrations and told the story of a teacher whose pupils have to come up with real-life examples of fractions (e.g. a sandwich cut in half, a flag with three stripes, etc.).

Then I handed my son all those fabric shapes and asked him to sort them into four piles by their labels. Once this was done, I asked him which of the piles had the biggest shapes and asked him to put the two triangles together to make a whole square. I showed him that the bottom number in the fraction 1/2 was two and that’s why there are two shapes that make up a whole.

He peeled the paper backing from the Wonder-Under off of the triangles and positioned them on the muslin. I ironed to bond them together.

Then we moved on to the 1/3 flag with three stripes, the 1/4 flag with four cubes, and lastly, the 1/8 flag with eight triangles; this last one required several looks at the sheet of nautical flags I’d printed to get the configuration right.

After each was ironed, we reviewed the fractions again before he peeled off the fraction labels.

His fraction flags were beautiful! I used spray adhesive to glue the flags to the cork bulletin boards and 3M Command Picture-Hanging strips to hang them on his bedroom wall. Now he can review his fractions any time he wants from his very own bed.

NOTE: Only adults should apply spray adhesive and when doing so, carefully follow the can’s instructions. That stuff is super sticky but also quite toxic.

For other great math ideas, visit Love2Learn2day's Math Monday blog hop!


  1. So much fun! Am a new follower! ;) Thanks for dropping by!

  2. wow, what a fabulous way to learn a hard topic for younger kids! :)

    Your flags turned out wonderfully and it made the concept hands-on & alive which I am sure was just perfect for your little guy.

    Thanks for linking this up to the Sunday Showcase.