Last year, I agreed to meet with a friend’s sixth-grade son. Oscar’s math teacher had raised an alarm for my friend and her husband about Oscar’s math progress. They were shocked. Oscar did his homework and was proficient with paper-and-pencil math. What was the problem?

Have you ever asked students to solve 12.6 x 10, and they respond that the answer is 12.60? I have, many times. Students who do this apply a pattern that works when they multiply whole numbers by 10—they tack on a zero to the end of the number they’re multiplying. But then they apply the same pattern when working with decimals. What can we do?

When teaching students to add decimals, I wind up reminding students to “line up the decimal points.” This makes sense to some students while others follow the rule without understanding. How can we teach adding decimals to develop understanding and skill? Here’s a possible suggestion: Give the correct answer up front.

I love Twitter. On November 3, 2017, I saw this image in a Tweet posted by @MarkChubb3. The image stuck with me for several days. After talking about it over dinner with a teacher friend, and then again over lunch with another, I became curious to find out what students might think. I made arrangements to “borrow” three fifth-grade classes and made plans to teach the same lesson in each class.