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.)

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?

I thought I was on the right teaching track using real-world contexts to talk about fractions with a class of fourth and fifth graders. Then a surprise occurred! I’m still mulling over what I could have done. I’d love your thoughts.