Adding and Subtracting Fractions Lesson Plan: The Drop Zone Game

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to explore a variety of strategies for addition with fractions. Students will use physical and virtual models (including an online interactive game) to demonstrate an understanding of how to add fractions.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand that there are many ways to add fractions.
  2. Use physical and virtual models to demonstrate an understanding of how to add fractions.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • LCD projector
  • Computers for students to play the Drop Zone game in pairs


fractions; numerator; denominator; common denominator


This lesson should be spread over multiple class periods.

Play the Drop Zone game yourself to become familiar with how game play works. The objective is to be the first player to make one whole. To play, load one or more bars into the launcher, aim at a target, and click “Drop.” If you use one bar to make a sum of 1, you earn the token under the target. If you can use two bars, you earn two of this token. If you use three bars, you will earn three of this token. If the token you have earned is a wild card, you can choose just one type of token.

Often your best move is to block your opponent by making a sum less than 1 or greater than 1 if it becomes a fraction your opponent cannot use. If you make a sum less than 1, it remains in the target area. If you make a sum greater than 1, it is reduced by 1 and becomes a fraction less than 1. If you do not like any of your moves, you can click “Replace Bars” to get three randomly chosen bars. This will end your turn.

You and your opponent alternate turns. After each turn, the bars and targets that have disappeared will be replaced by randomly chosen fractions. New targets will always be less than 1/2. New tokens will also be randomly chosen to replace tokens that were earned. The winner is the player who first earns four different tokens or five of one kind of token.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Show students the Adding and Subtracting Fractions movie to build background knowledge.
  2. Project the Graphic Organizer for the class to see. Review the concepts of adding and subtracting fractions, and type student responses directly into the graphic organizer.
  3. Invite students to experiment with adding fractions in a hands-on way using fraction strips (also known as fraction bars.) Guide students to understand that each fraction strip is divided into equal sections. The total number of sections represents the denominator. The number of shaded sections represents the numerator. Have them look at the unshaded parts of target fractions to see what they need to make a sum of 1.
  4. Encourage students to work with a partner to develop a game around adding fractions. The game's object should be to make sums of 1 and to prevent their opponent from making sums of 1. Students may create their own game boards and use fraction strips, cards, etc. to design their games.
  5. Circulate around the room while students to work to help them problem solve and provide ideas as needed. It may be helpful for some students if you demonstrate how to play the Drop Zone game for a few minutes. Guide students to think of creative ways to develop the basic concepts from Drop Zone into their own board game.
  6. Allow students time to develop and troubleshoot their games, then switch partners and take turns introducing their game to their new partner. Students should play one another's games with their new partner for several minutes.
  7. Have students rejoin their original partner and debrief. They may want to jot down notes about things they'd like to change or add to the game to make game play more exciting or to correct any inaccuracies.
  8. Introduce the Drop Zone game to students. Explain that the object of the game is the same as the game students designed. Give students 10-15 minutes to play the game with their partners.
  9. Debrief on the game play. How are the student-created games the same or different from the Drop Zone game? Allow students to talk about additional game strategies they'd like to incorporate into their own fraction games.
  10. Give students time to adapt their games as needed, and then hold a fractions game day in class! Allow students to rotate in partnerships through several different games (both student-created and the online Drop Zone game) to practice the key concepts.
  11. Afterward, have students reflect orally or in writing. Which games were most useful in helping the class learn about adding fractions? Which game play strategies helped them to create one whole? How could their games be adapted to practice subtracting fractions?

Extension Activity:

Have students explore the other Math Games in GameUp. Challenge them to create their own games to help their classmates practice key math skills!