Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hands-on Ideas for Learning about Decimals

My son has spent the last few weeks learning about decimals and how they are related to fractions and percentages. We have used a range of resources and FREE printables as well as learning about how decimals are used in our everyday life. Here are some of the hands-on ways that we have learned about decimals.

What is a Decimal?
A decimal is part of (or a fraction of) a whole number and is positioned to the right of a decimal point. To explain this further we watched this YouTube clip called Introduction to Decimals (love the Aussie accent on this one). 

Place Value
We started by looking closely at decimal place value so I adapted the FREE Place Value Slider I have previously made for our Learning about (whole number) Place Value to fit our new learning about decimals. Our Decimal Place Value Slider helped my son visually see decimal numbers and their place value as well as how to read them.

Using our Decimal Place Value Slider, we focused mainly on the tenths and hundredths place. For example, we looked at the decimal 0.65 and read the place value like this; zero ones, 6 tenths and 5 hundredths. So we could see that the numbers right of the decimal place get 10x smaller as you move to the right. 

Base Ten Blocks and Decimals
To help my son understand and see decimals, I used our base ten blocks and some cards I made. Representing Decimals Using Base Ten Blocks is not a new concept but definitely one that engages the learner and helps learning be visual and hands-on. We used the decimal cards and associated them to the pictorial reference card. In this way, we could see the decimal (coloured part) as part of a whole and what it represents.

Once my son could see that 0.1 and 0.10 where the same value, we started using the Base Ten Blocks to represent the decimals shown on the cards. We could see how the one tenth or 0.1 was represented using the ten base block and so on.

With an understanding of money and its value, I introduced money (cents) as it represents a decimal (part of a dollar or whole). We used coins and matched them to the decimal cards and used the base ten blocks to represent the same value.

Decimals In Everyday Life
I think that there is no point in learning about maths concepts unless it can be related to everyday life. So we found opportunities to see decimals at work in our daily life. We started with measuring height. My son measured his height and recorded it in meters and centimetres (1m 51 cm), converting it into centimetres only (151 cm) before recording his height in meters (1.51m) showing the decimals.

The Nature Curriculum provided us with an opportunity to learn more about decimals through measuring length and weight of our very large, home-grown watermelon. We were able to measure our watermelon in centimetres (57cm) and convert it to meters (0.57m) so we could see the decimal. Weighing the watermelon also provided us with more decimals as we could see that it was 11.9kgs or 11kgs and 900grams. 

We also found decimals being used at our local library. The librarian showed us how decimals are used to file each book in the library so that they are easy to locate when needed. 

The weather also presented an opportunity to see decimals being used in everyday life. Temperature being measured in degrees Celsius presents a decimal reading as well as the dew point and air pressure. 

Decimals to Fractions
With a basic understanding of decimals, we started looking at how decimals and fractions work together. We have previously learned about fractions which you can read my post on 10+ ways to play with Fractions. We watched Converting Base-10 Fractions as an introduction to how fractions and decimals can be interchanged. So using the decimal cards, my son matched them up with the fraction cards by using the picture card as a guide. 

We also used our cards to compare fractions and decimals looking at greater than, less than and equal too.

Because my son had grasped this concept quickly, we used different fraction cards and matched them to other fraction and decimal cards of the same value. We also introduced percentages.

You can download a copy of my FREE Printable Decimals, Fractions and Percentage Cards that I've used in this post as well as a copy of my FREE Decimal Place Value Slider

More hands-on learning ideas about decimals and fractions can be found on my Maths - Fraction and Decimal pinterest board.

This blog post has been linked up with: 


  1. Love all this hands-on learning about decimals! Maybe if I was taught that way I would have a better understanding. Thanks for linking up at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! We hope you join us again next week!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I love your idea. My son is having trouble grasping the concept and thank you for making it so simple to understand.

    1. You're most welcome! I hope your son finds learning about decimals a little easier now.