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What Makes a Good Resource: Tin of cubes

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 19 August 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 03 September 2010 by ncetm_administrator

What Makes a Good Resource

Tin of cubes

Resource description:

Tin with Pebbles

A small tin filled with cubes in a combination of colours e.g. 7 red and 3 yellow. (More cubes in the same colours to be available throughout the lesson).

Teacher comment:

I have found that when introducing fractions to primary aged pupils, they have found the idea of ‘parts of a whole’ a difficult concept to visualise. We often use the model of pieces of cake or slices of pizza (often without actually demonstrating with the real thing!). Even when children did understand parts of a whole as related to a pizza or a cake, I found that they then found it difficult to relate fractions to any other given situation and that the idea of a fraction was still quite abstract to them.

What other equipment could I use to introduce fractions?

What I did:

I introduced the topic of fractions to a Year 4 class with them working in pairs. Each pair had a small tin or container and to begin with all the pairs were given the same content – the tin filled with 10 cubes of different colours e.g. 7 red and 3 yellow. A of tray more cubes in the same two colours was left on the table for later. The children were then asked to empty their container onto the table and count the number of cubes inside.

It was established that there were 10 cubes in the tin altogether. I wrote the number ten on the board. The children were then asked ‘How many cubes are red?’ and ‘How many cubes are yellow?’ The children were able to respond quickly with the answers ‘7’ and ‘3’. I then modelled how this could be written as a fraction e.g. ‘We can say that 7 out of the 10 cubes are red, we can write this as 7/10.’ ‘We can say that 3 out of the 10 cubes are yellow, we can write this as 3/10.’

The children were then asked to add two more cubes from the tray of any colour combination to the cubes they already had. I asked ‘How many cubes do you have altogether now?’ and invited children to share how many red/yellow cubes they had out of the 12. More confident pupils were able to represent this as a fraction on the board, providing a model to their peers.

In mixed ability pairs, the children were asked to take turns to add and take away cubes from the tin, empty them out and then together write fractions to represent the number of red and yellow cubes. The pupils enjoyed the practicality of the task and towards the end of the lesson became quicker at recording the numbers as fractions.

How could I ensure the more able pupils were challenged?

During the plenary, I asked questions such as ‘4 out of the 12 cubes in my tin are yellow so how many would be red?’ and ‘Can you write this as a fraction?’. This gave an opportunity to extend the more able children and after having a very ‘hands on’ experience got them to develop their mental thinking.


This activity was really good to do with the children. The resource allowed for the task to be very ‘hands on’ and gave a very good visual beginning to understanding and writing simple fractions. All the children participated in the task and it was very easy for me to adapt my questioning to suit the different abilities of the children e.g. ‘Can you tell me how many out of 8 are red?’ ‘Can you tell me what fraction is yellow? ‘, ‘If I had 9 cubes in my tin and 5 are red, how many would be yellow?’ ‘How can we write this as a fraction?’

What other equipment could I use? Would this help pupils to apply their knowledge about fractions to other given situations

The children really began to feel confident at writing fractions and in understanding them as representing parts of a whole.

In what other ways could this resource be used?


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