Teaching Math Counts

~ Trenton ~
2005-2006

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Problem Solving

Teachers of Grades 2 and 3 Teachers of Grades 4 and 5

The Math Forum Scoring Rubric in kid-friendly language:

  • Download in pdf format.
  • View in gif format.

Claire's help for PoW users

Problem Solving Strategies (pdf)

Benefits of using Problem of the Week as a regular part of your math program:

  • It helps students to build new mathematical knowledge.
  • It encourages making connections with other mathematical ideas as well as with contexts outside of mathematics.
  • It encourages students to try different approaches. They will learn how to get started on a challenging problem and develop strategies for making progress when they are stuck.
  • Having a different audience to write for is very motivating to children.
  • It provides opportunities to develop literacy skills.
  • It creates an opportunity for your students to reflect on the problem solving process.
  • Collecting student work through submissions to the PoW will enable everyone to examine,
  • learn from, discuss, and prepare teaching strategies for the students.
  • It helps prepare your students for the open-ended problem solving on tests.

Suggestions for using PoWs with your students:

  • 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 to what they have been learning in their other math work
  • Encourage estimation and discussion of what kind of answer to expect before beginning to solve the problem.
  • Cultivate a class culture that values flexibility, exploration and risk taking.
  • 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.
  • Teach the scoring rubric. Have students apply it to their own work and learn how to find evidence to support their scoring.
  • Consider having students work in pairs so they can support each other as they work toward solutions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Have students read what they wrote (possibly aloud to each other), and after each sentence ask a question. "How do I know that" or "Why does that make sense?"
  • Like any curriculum, build math writing and communication in small steps. If the idea of "revision" is built into the activity, it will help your students realize that they have the opportunity to improve.
  • 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 read the response from their mentors and revise their solutions.
  • Model good formatting using a projector. Include notation such as asterisk (*) for multiplication, slash (/) for division, spacing, etc.
  • Ask children not to erase errors and false starts, but to draw one line through them. There is much to be learned from what doesn't work!

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Last updated February 26, 2006