Fourth graders solve the problem 5 ÷ 4 in the context of sharing cookies, figuring out how to share five cookies equally with four people. The students came up with six different solutions―all of them correct! (Try and think of what they might be before continuing to read.)

When should a teacher resolve a question for students and when is it OK, or even a better instructional decision, to let confusion ride? I recently was confronted with this situation with fourth graders. Read about what happened and what I did.

The fourth graders I’m working with on a regular basis are learning about fractions. During a class conversation, one student declared, “Fractions aren’t numbers.” Most of the others in the class agreed. I tried to help with the misunderstanding by teaching a lesson about placing fractions on a number line.

At a math workshop, the presenter suggested that students have opportunities to be producers as well as consumers of their learning in the classroom. I put this advice into action with fifth graders, using the activity of Fix It to provide students additional experience with comparing and ordering fractions.