SEATTLE — During a math lesson on dividing decimals at Hawthorne Elementary School, 11-year-old Imran Ali said the material didn't click for him until his fifth grade teacher taught it using felt blocks. It was easier, he said, to count out real-life objects instead of grappling with abstract numbers in his head.

For 10-year-old Aliayah Smith, the lesson made sense when she worked out a word problem on paper. And Ryan Jackson, 10, said he understood the work better after his teacher showed the class a video explainer.

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