Welcome to Problems of the Week

Teaching with PoWs

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  • Cultivate a class culture that values flexibility, exploration and risk taking.
  • Apply your normal literacy strategies to help students understand what is being asked in the problem (read the problem aloud, paraphrase the problem, check for understanding).
  • Prompt students to talk about how the problem connects or relates to what they have been learning in their other math work.
  • When they are stuck, resist the urge to tell them what to do or explain the problem over again. Instead, ask them leading questions that get them to think about the problem in a different way. Better yet, have them ask you a question about what they don't understand. You'll learn more about what they do and don't understand and be able to clarify any mistunderstandings more effectively. Often the process of articulating the difficulty helps to clarify the student's own thinking and leads to a breakthrough.
  • Encourage estimation and discussion of what kind of answer to expect before beginning to solve the problem.
  • Make it clear to your students that the goal is to understand and explain how they solved the problem, not simply find the final answer.
  • Encourage students to find multiple methods for solving problems. Confirming an answer through a different strategy increases one's confidence that it is correct much more than repeating the same steps, which may be flawed to begin with.
  • Consider having students work in pairs so they can support each other as they work toward solutions.
  • Develop good math language throughout the day. A math word wall can encourage children to use rich and precise math vocabulary in their writing.
  • Model how to write an explanation. Ask a student to explain her/his thoughts out loud. Record those steps on the board or on an overhead as they speak.
  • Build math writing skills in small steps. If the idea of revision is built into an activity, and students realize they will have the opportunity to improve, they will be more willing to take risks.
  • Ask children not to erase errors and false starts on paper, but to draw one line through them. There is much to be learned from what doesn't work!
  • Have students read what their explanations aloud, possibly with a partner. Prompt them to ask themselves or each other, "How do I know that?" or "Why does that make sense?"
  • Teach the scoring rubric. Have students apply it to their own work and learn how to find evidence to support their scoring.
  • If your students are going to submit their solutions online, have them work out the problem first, then take their notes and calculations to the computer to write their explanation.
  • Encourage students to . . .
    • look at our answer;
    • leave a comment;
    • read the response from their mentors;
    • revise their solutions.
  • Model good formatting using a projector. Include notation such as asterisk (*) for multiplication, slash (/) for division, spacing, etc.

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