As far as fractions go, halves and quarters get a lot of the glory — it’s fairly easy to cut things in half for one, and one could argue that more integers are divisible by two than by any larger integer (although one could also argue the opposite, so that’s probably moot).  Lately I’ve been thinking that thirds are really the sleeper fraction.

Take the calendar year:  we divide it into four seasons, but they’re not quite equal, at least in upstate NY.  Winter spans three of them most years, which can feel a little depressing at times.  So about a year ago I started wondering if there was a way to redistrict the year in order to contain winter more thoroughly, and the best configuration I could come up with was:

Fall:  August-November
Winter: December-March
Spring-Summer:  April-July

It’s not quite perfect, but actually fits our academic schedule pretty well — school starts at the end of August so most of August is spent getting ready for school, and not so much in summer mode.  November is probably more like winter, but at least the first half of it is usually pretty fall-like.  Then December through March are clearly winter, no two ways about it, but April…ah, April.  I love April.  It might be my favorite month, except it’s always so busy, but that’s when the daffodils come up and the grass thinks about growing, and we can open the windows more often.   Like I said, April tends to be really busy, but it also has that happy Summer’s Coming feel, and the seniors are thinking about graduation, and it’s really a jump into summer.   And May is finals and graduation, which lead to June and July.  So for me at least, these thirds are a little more natural that the quarterly seasons.  [And for schools that start in September, a one-month shift might work, depending on whether school or the weather is the dominant feeling of winter.]

I suspect that thirds might work well for a clock, too, where the AT hours are for work/school, the BT hours are for homework and play, and the CT hours are for sleep, although when I try to put numbers to this it doesn’t work quite as well, since our work day itself tends to be split into three parts (early morning at home, day at work, and then evening at home again, stealing time from the other parts).  But still, in theory it makes sense, at least as much as 12-hour divisions.


One Response to “Thirds”

  1. Denise Says:

    Thirds are nice for teaching fraction concepts with precisely because they aren’t so common in daily life. Still simple enough for kids to grasp (and easy to draw), but less familiar than halves and fourths.

    Fifths also work but are harder to draw, especially when you’re teaching equivalent fractions.

    And then there’s always the fun of series: Cut 1/3 pizza (paper plate makes a fair model), and then 1/3 of 1/3, and so on…

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