We need first graders to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. To do this I need them confident and ready to take risks as they solve and test hypotheses they develop while they interact with word problems (MP1). Solving word problems is a perfect way to practice this math practice standard. Many first grade students become discouraged early with word problems because they are struggling with the complexities involved in word problems (reading the problem, holding all the information in your head, figuring out the correct operation, etc.).
Thus, solving word problems require the use of their higher cognitive domains. They must comprehend the problem and analyze it to be able to answer it. These are really big terms to describe what takes place in their minds in a matter of seconds, but these are the mental actions that I need to support students in going through as they read word problems.
To begin, I will review our previous lesson by giving students true or false addition problems. This will be a fast oral activity that they can answer with a thumbs up or down.
Students I am going to say some addition problems, and I want you to give me a thumbs up if it is true and a thumbs down if it is false.
You will need to print the Story Problem Worksheet and run enough copies for four per student. You can staple them together with your own version of a cover page or just staple them together as is. I chose to staple them in sets of four with no cover page.
Word problems supply an opportunity to teach several strategies and steps in working through a problem. I will use this lesson to teach my students that drawing a picture to represent parts in a problem will help them find the sum. This is a great starting strategy for first graders because they need that concrete, visual mental support. I also give them steps to follow so that they can fall back on this process if stuck:
Watch the video on our strategy discussion.
You can come up with your own simple addition stories, and, in fact, I recommend it with one big tip: use the students' names and things you know about the students (i.e. number of pets they have, children in their families, etc.). The kids love to hear each other's names and see themselves present in any kind of lesson. I have always used their names to teach syllables, so why not use them for math problems? This lesson will engage them by personalizing the problems.
Also, I find that creating simple problems to start is good for a number of reasons. First, you can create simple problems with mostly sight words and easy to decode words, so students aren't stumped by the reading when it's the math you want to focus on. You also want them to be able to identify the most important information, so simple problems without extraneous details are important to use to start. Later, you can introduce these layers of complexity when your students are ready.
I make a list of three problems and will use them to walk my students through the first three pages of their packet. Watch the video of one student's answer for completing a problem.
I present the last page as a challenge to my students and I even call it a "challenge." Every little kid likes to be challenged. I am showing them that you have faith in their abilities, and it boosts their confidence. Even if they are struggling while working, I will be walking around and assisting anyone who is stuck, and this will keep their confidence high. I ask them to create their own problem from the ground up in this challenge page. I want them to write their own sentences, draw their won picture, and write their won number sentence. See the picture of two students' self-created word problems.
The word problem worksheet (WordProblemWksht) will allow more practice towards processing information and problem solving with word problems. I will read each problem one at a time for my students to solve. There is space for them to use the strategy of drawing the information and space to write their number sentence. Independent work is so important to check for understanding of concepts.
See the picture of two students' work: Student Completed Work.
I want to point out that during the group work I gave them a blank squares to write their addition sentences. I gave them one square for each piece of information they would need to fill in. For this worksheet, I purposely did not use the same format. I switched to lines for numbers and circles for them to place their symbols. I have learned to not always use the same format for first graders to complete number sentences because they get stuck looking for that same format and cannot move past it because they do not see the "correct" spot to write it. I want to vary what they see and the spaces to record their answers.
I will ask my students to turn to one another and explain what steps they each followed to complete their math problems today.