Nobody much enjoys fractions, but one of Michael Rosen’s poems offers an unusual approach to some very profound ideas which we’d normally never consider tackling in primary school.

**If you don’t put your shoes on **

**before I count fifteen **

**then we won’t go **

**to the woods to climb the chestnut**

Every family knows this conversation, where a child is trying to complete a task to a time limit but the count is reaching the end and the task is still incomplete.

So Rosen’s count goes:

**One**

**Two**

**Three**

….

….

….

**Twelve**

**Thirteen**

**Fourteen**

What next?

**Fourteen and a half**, of course,

And then:

**Fourteen and three quarters**,

**Fourteen and seven eights**,

….

.

Now isn’t this a wonderfully accessible approach to some very deep ideas?

*** Fractions are used to split up whole numbers into smaller bits.

*** Fractions are artificial and are invented to solve a problem (the 19^{th} century mathematician Kronecker said “God made natural numbers; all else is the work of man”).

*** The numbers have a logical and predictable basis.

*** The series can go on as long as we want – even if we go as far as Fourteen and 1023/1024 someone’s sure to want to go on to Fourteen and 2047/2048, ….

*** So the series is in fact infinite.

*** Each term is getting closer and closer to 15.

*** The remaining gap gets smaller every time, but

*** The series never quite gets to 15.

*** The bigger the denominator the smaller the value of the unit fraction.

*** There are lots of number patterns to explore.

*** ….

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The last time I asked permission to use the poem Rosen’s agent demanded a vast fee, so you’ll have to track down the poem for yourself. I found it in Rosen’s collection “Quick, Let’s Get Out Of Here”, but you won’t have to try very hard before you locate a copy on the internet. I had a search recently and was interested to see someone else who uses it with children – but they were using it from a completely different starting point, exploring how children cope with stressful situations such as completing a task under pressure.

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I want a video of the poem!!!!!!!

Great idea – do let me know when you’ve made it!