If you walked into a fourth-grade classroom, you might not realize math lessons were in full swing. Your child could be stirring batter to make loaves of pumpkin bread. (Quadrupling a recipe allows your child to practice multiplying fractions.) Pairs of students might be building an elaborate structure from cardboard boxes, cylinders, and spheres, then writing and presenting a story about their invention. (Calculating the aggregate volume of the various shapes is real-world geometry, and storytelling helps the learning stick.)
Fourth graders’ intensive study of fractions culminates in Fraction Fandango, our annual celebration of numerators and denominators. The wacky, student-designed costumes prove that even pants can be divided into equal parts. Each of these hands-on projects transforms math from conceptual to concrete. In the process, students are constructing an understanding that math is not just a set of rules but a set of connected ideas and patterns. At every turn, teachers are emphasizing larger lessons about learning and life: There are many ways to solve a problem. Mistakes are a powerful learning tool. And teamwork often leads to a better product than you can create on your own.