Reflection: Grappling with Complexity Working with Larger Numbers - Section 2: Teaching the Lesson


The warm up and teaching of the lesson went so well today. I was excited that students were able to deal with hundreds, tens and ones to both add and subtract. They panicked a little when I switched from addition to subtraction, but when I told them to use the same strategies we had been using with addition, such as working with hundreds, tens and ones, writing the problem in columns or covering the hundreds, solving the problem as if it were a 2 digit number and then putting the hundreds back on the number, they quickly solved 3 digit subtraction problems that did not require regrouping. I was feeling like "Wow, they get it."

Then I handed them a few of the word problems they had created. I made sure none required regrouping. The problems were now in words not numbers. Half of the class (or at least it seemed like half) started with "I can't do this." "I don't know how."

I was disappointed, to say the least. What do you mean you can't?, I was thinking to myself. "Of course you can, you just did it." I was patient with the first child or two, but by the third I was getting frustrated. I had to stop and think, why aren't they getting it? Why is it suddenly too hard? 

Of course, the format had changed! So I stopped and called the group back together. We talked about how a picture might help, or writing the numbers in a number sentence would make it just like what we had been doing together.

I reminded them that there is no such thing as "I can't." They might need help, and if I see them starting, maybe with a picture, or with writing out the numbers, I would help, but that if they just sit and stare, I really can't help because I don't know what they have already tried. 

After that, I was able to help those students who were trying a starting point, and many were able to help themselves. 

Don't give up when kids say they can't. Remind them that they can. Help them to get started, review with them what they know and help them to build from there. They can (and so can you!).

  Dealing with the I Can'ts
  Grappling with Complexity: Dealing with the I Can'ts
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Working with Larger Numbers

Unit 14: Length
Lesson 4 of 9

Objective: SWBAT use addition and subtraction strategies to work with larger numbers generated by their measurement data

Big Idea: Students generated data about rolling objects in part 1 of this lesson. Now they need to work on strategies for adding and subtracting the numbers they found.

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