Intro to Solving Proportions

Solving division equation proportions is challenging for two reasons. First, it involves fractions. Second, for some reason, many students struggle with solving division equations and a proportion is a more complex version. This post outlines a scaffolded handout to guide students through solving by multiplying both sides.

A common mistake seen in many settings


The handout provides support in two ways. First, it draws upon prior knowledge of solving division equations Second, it scaffolds the initial multiplication. This post is in contrast to another in which I share scaffolding for cross multiplication, which is helpful if a variable term is a binomial.


Page 1 focuses on solving division equations to draw upon prior knowledge and to introduce the scaffolding. You can have students write a 1 under the factor.


This page uses the same scaffolding, but now with proportions. The focus is on multiplying the numerator, as was done on the first page.

The Handout

Here is a link to the handout.

Solving Proportions – Scaffolded and Jamboard

Below are images from a Jamboard and a handout that scaffold cross multiplying to solve a proportion. (See image at bottom to make a copy of the Jamboard.) This is an entry point, with a focus on how to write the ensuing equation. Solving would be a prerequisite skill so it is not addressed (but obviously would follow). This allows for less task demand placed on the students and for more time spent on the new steps.

The arrows and shading scaffold the cross multiplication step. Students move the terms from the proportion to the equation. This allows for kinesthetic engagement and helps students see how the equations are formed. The scaffolding for the equation guides students to writing the equation, which I have found a challenging step for some students. The equation is written first as factors to reinforce the idea of multiplication, then the students simplify for the second equation.

The handout draws upon the Jamboard and uses the same scaffolding. The template is blank to allow for use with other handouts. The students can copy problems from another handout and follow the scaffold to get to the equation. The steps and equation can be transferred over to the handout.

Make a copy of the Jamboard to use it.

CCSS MATH Coherence Map – 3rd Grade Groups of Objects to HS Slope

A hidden treasure is the Common Core of State Standards Math Coherence Map. It is an interactive flow chart that shows connections between the various standards.

  • If you are teaching math, you can see the connections between what you are teaching, what was taught previously, and how you are preparing students for their future math education.
  • If you are a special education teacher, you can see the progression of prerequisite skills. If you write IEP objectives for grade level standards, you can address the prerequisite standards and progress made through these prerequisites can show progress towards mastery of the IEP objectives.

In this post, I show the progression from 1st grade standard on the = sign and 2nd grade standard of repeated addition all the way to interpreting slope in high school math.

After clicking “Get Started” you will narrow your focus to the grade, the cluster, and then the math domain.

The flow chart shows connections between a selected standard and others, including prerequisites. In this case 8.F.B.4 – 8th grade content that is a prerequisite for the high school math work. Click on the 8.F.B.4 standard and it pops up (below right).

In turn, the 8th grade standard is connected to a 7th grade prerequisite regarding ratios and proportions.

Notice that the 7th grade standard, 7.RP.A.2, appears to be a dead end (bottom left). I picked up the path by clicking on Grade seen at the top left of the screenshot and made my back to that standard and the connections to prerequisites appeared. (Same happened in 3rd grade shown further down in this post.)

The path continues from ratio and proportions in 7th grade to unit rate in 6th grade, multiplication word problems and multiplication in elementary school.

I want to emphasize that students are working on unit rate and slope problems in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! 3.OA.A.1 below addresses groups of objects model for multiplication and 4.OA.A.2 addresses word problems involving multiplication.

I was recently working with a student entering middle school on multiplication word problems. To unpack the word problems and the concept of multiplication in context, I had her draw (photo below) groups and groups of objects to help her identify the unit rate (although we don’t use that term yet). This work will impact her math education through the high school math and even into college (slope has been a common gap for the college students in the math courses I taught at various colleges and universities).

This approach I used with the student could be used for high school students, especially those with special needs.

Making Proportions Meaningful (and Therefore Accessible)

A student reported to our schools math lab where I reside. He had a handout on proportions shown in the photo below and stated that he didn’t know what to do.

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I find that in the vast majority of situations like this the student lacks the conceptual understanding of the topic. As is typically the case, I started my sessions with the student by focusing on something he more intuitively understood. Teens know money, phones, games, music and food.

In this case I started by showing him a photo on my phone shrunk then enlarged the photo and talked about how I could double the size of the photo. We talk about what doubling means then I show him a handout with the photo in two sizes (below).

I explained that the small photo was 3×2 inches and that I wanted to enlarge it. The bottom of the big photo is 6″ but I needed to figure out the height (vertical length) which is marked with an X.

I had him figure out the height (4). Then I explained that proportional means the shape is the same but bigger or smaller. In this case both the side and bottom were multiplied by 2. Then I showed him the “mathy” way of doing the problems. This progressed towards the handout he brought into math lab. By the end he was doing the proportions independently.

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Analogies: Making Math Meaningful


Math is an esoteric subject for most people. Good instruction makes information meaningful. One method for making information meaningful is to connect new information to prior experience.

In this situation the new information involves determining whether shapes are similar (see photo below). One example of student prior experience with this topic would be shrinking people down. In the photo above I use Mini Me and Dr. Evil and their respective (and fabricated) weights and shoe sizes as measures that will eventually give way to measures of sides of a polygon (below). When working on the problem below the students can be prompted by recalling the analogy of Mini Me and Dr. Evil.