Make Meaning of Problems
Guided Inquiry: A teacher provides a topic or question for students to focus on, and students design their own process of investigation, problem solving, or literary analysis.
Guided Inquiry: A teacher provides a topic or question for students to focus on, and students design their own process of investigation, problem solving, or literary analysis.

Break Apart Method for Multi-step Problems

Sarah introduces students to the break apart method as a means of chunking to make meaning of multi-step problems. Sarah's students underline each step of the problem to break the problem into more manageable chunks.

About This Strategy
prep time:
Moderate
Grade Level: Third grade
Teaching Challenge: Make Meaning of Problems
Sarah Maffei
Kipp Coastal Village Primary School
undefined, TX
Strategy Implementation Questions
Questions to think about when implementing the strategy
  • How could breaking apart multi-step problems help students make meaning of the problem?
  • How could you support students in breaking apart problems in the correct place?
  • What could be challenging about this strategy for your students?
  • How could you modify this strategy further to meet the needs of your students?
Lesson Notes

"Something I have noticed as you all have become stronger math experts is that you are looking for information, clues and questions within problems. That is something that can be so tough when you have to look for more than 1 step! Today we are going to focus on how we break a problem apart into smaller pieces so that solving it becomes more clear. 

Who can read this problem to me? What is the first thing they’re telling me? Can we break that apart into step 1? Ok, what’s next? What should I do here? Let’s break that apart into step 2. And what about after that? There’s our step 3. And what’s last? That’s right—FINALLY our question! Can you imagine if we had just circled key information, circled numbers and had only done 1 step? It’s going to take a lot of focus and hard work to solve all of these steps.

Do we all solve problems the exact same way? Who here draws a picture models? What about using our skip counting songs? Is one way more correct than the other? NO! We all have tools that we use that work best for us and today we are going to get to see all of that excellent thinking."

About This Strategy
prep time:
Moderate
Grade Level: Third grade
Teaching Challenge: Make Meaning of Problems
Sarah Maffei
Kipp Coastal Village Primary School
undefined, TX
Artifacts
Teaching Move
Lesson File:Classroom Video: Grappling with Complexity
In this video, Sarah and her students break the problem apart. This strategy supports students to make meaning of multi-step problems.
Student Work Sample
Lesson File:Student Work: Breaking Down Basketball Problem
This document contains a work sample of a student who broke down the basketball problem. This strategy can support students to make meaning of multi-step problems.
Student Practice
Lesson File:Word Problems
This document contains a word problem that Sarah's students use the break apart method with. This strategy can support students to make meaning of multi-step word problems.
Student Work Sample
Lesson File:All the Steps
This document contains a picture of a student's work sample. The student used the break apart method to solve this multi-step problem. This strategy supports student to make meaning of complex math tasks.
Instructional Resource
Link:Break Apart Method Checklist
This checklist was created by TeachCycle teacher, Kristina Abramo, to support students in using the Break Apart method. Abramo, Kristina. Natick Public Schools. Retrieved on November 15, 2015.
Similar Strategies

Act It Out to Make Meaning

Joyce reads a subtraction word problem to the class and her students (disguised with animal masks) act out the problem. The class then discusses the problem, its meaning, and how to solve it. Joyce continues this routine until all students have had a chance to act out a problem.

Activating Knowledge and Engaging in Learning