This lesson is part of a thematic unit on integrating literacy into mathematics.  The topic is fractions.

Title of Lesson

Fraction Story: Determining Importance


Third Grade Math
Math: Fractions
Literacy: Determining Importance


CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.1           Understand a fraction 1/b as the quantity formed by 1 part when a whole is partitioned into b equal parts; understand a fraction a/b as the quantity formed by a parts of size 1/b.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.2           Understand a fraction as a number on the number line; represent fractions on a number line diagram.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.4           Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.


I can determine what information is important in text.

I can show and understand that fractions represent equal parts of a whole, where the top number is the part and the bottom number is the total number of parts in the whole.

I can recognize and write fractions and explain what they mean using words or models.



Worksheets (included below)
Reference for determining importance in math word problems

Essential Question(s):

How can we determine what information is important in a story problem?
How can we visualize a fraction?
How can we show what a fraction is without using numbers?
How can we show what a fraction represents?

Inclusion Activity

5-10 minutes

Discuss the following:
When we are reading a text, what is a detail?
What is a big idea?
How do we determine what is important in a text as we read?

This is the overviewing step.

The goal is to ensure students can recognize the difference between details and the big idea, or general understanding of the text.  Use previous concepts to discuss the importance of details: for example, how we use details to visualize what we are reading.

Allow students to offer their ideas via an open discussion and help cement a firm understanding of what to look for in “important details” in text.

Discuss with the students how, when it comes to story problems, important details are the ones that will help us answer the question.  Those are the details we need to find as we begin our activity.


Sequence of Activities

Give each student a worksheet.

Worksheet includes the following scenarios:

Determining Importance: Fraction Story Problems

  1. Captain Bob wanted to see the world! He decided to go on a long journey, sailing from one end of the earth to the other.  One sunny day, Captain Bob boarded a plane.  He traveled ¼ of the journey by plane.  Next, he boarded a boat.  He journeyed the rest of the way by boat.  What fraction of the journey does Captain Bob travel by boat?  Which mode of transportation was longer?

  2. Captain Bob had a lot of free time while on his boat! There are two things Captain Bob likes to do best: swim and watch TV.  Whilst on the boat, Captain Bob spent 3/8 of his free time watching TV.  Soon, he grew board watching all those shows.  He decided to swim, instead!  What fraction of Captain Bob’s free time did he spend swimming?  What did he spend more time doing?

  3. Captain Bob liked the food better on the plane than he did on the boat. For example, there were so many different kinds of drinks to choose from!  Captain Bob likes to blend his favorite kinds of juice.  His favorite drink has 2/5 orange juice.  He also adds cranberry juice.  What fraction of Captain Bob’s drink is cranberry juice?  What juice did his drink consist more of?

  4. Captain Bob didn’t want to be lonely on his journey. He decided to invite his friends along for the fun!  7/10 of his friends joined him on the plane.  The rest of his friends were afraid to fly, so they chose to take the boat.  What fraction of Captain Bob’s friends were on the boat?  Which mode of transportation had more friends?

  5. Captain Bob was pretty lazy during his journey. With all that spare time, he didn’t have much to do!  However, Captain Bob loves to sleep.  He spent 2/9 of his time sleeping on the plane.  What fraction did Captain Bob stay awake?  What did he do more: sleep or stay awake?

  1. Work together on problem #1. Read the story problem aloud, or have the student read it aloud.  Using a highlighter, have students suggest what they believe are important details in the story problem.  As the students make their suggestions, be sure to ask them if the idea they are highlighting helps them to solve the problem.  Also, discuss why certain details are not important to solving the problem. For example: the sky being blue does not help us determine any part of a fraction.
    Optional: print only one word problem per sheet or half sheet and distribute one per student.  That way, they cannot see their fellow students’ problems.


  1. Once you see the students are comfortable picking out important details, assign one question per student. The questions will have extra details that are not all pertinent to answering the question.  This is the overviewing step: students will want to read through their word problems, skimming for important words, sentences, and ideas.  Allow them time to work on them individually, highlighting the important details they believe will help them solve the problem.  Remind them as they work to think of what they already know (prior knowledge) to guide them in choosing the right details.
  2. Once the students feel as though they have thoroughly read and reviewed their word problems, have them highlight the ideas. Inform students to be prepared to explain why they chose those details: this is the self-assess step.
  3. One by one, students will share their word problems. The students will only share the details from their word problems that they found important.  They will not share the other details/sentences of the word problem.  Listening students will use their whiteboards and the information read to them to solve the problem on their own.  If the students cannot solve their problems, use the compare and revise stage to assess the interpretation of important details and revise as needed.  Students should openly discuss if there was enough information to solve the problem, what information was missing if they could not solve the problem, and etc.
    Important: where necessary, give students any missing information so that they may solve the problems to completion.


Instructional Strategies

Learning groups/cooperative learning
Group discussion/brainstorming


Formative: Listening to students offer their understanding of the concepts.  Review responses on worksheets.

Summative:  Topic test


ELL: Provide full worksheets of all problems.

ELL: Allow students to verbalize their understanding, their important ideas, and/or the way they solve their problems.

ELL: Allow students to use the whiteboards to draw their understanding and/or show their problem-solving.

Summary, Integration, and Reflection

Discussing as a team what parts of each story problem were important and why.  It is also important to discuss which parts of the story problems were unnecessary to solving the problem, as in, which were unimportant details.