Story Problems: Putting Concepts Into Action

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SWBAT identify and use a strategy for solving addition and subtraction problems. SWBAT record their thinking and solution.

Big Idea

TEAMWORK and COLLABORATION! This lesson will serve as the foundation for the next few lessons. Students will be encouraged to work collaboratively as they tackle a variety of story problems.

Warm Up

10 minutes

I will once again change the focus of the Quick Flash routine as I introduce cube patterns to the students.  I will have the students sit down at their tables.  Each table will have square tiles placed in the middle.

"We are going to change our Quick Flash cards today.  Instead of using paper and pencil to record your thinking, I want you to use the tiles that are on your table.  I will flash the image once, then again, and finally leave it up for you to check your thinking."

I will flash Card A first.  In order to do this, I use the document camera, I flash the card for 2 seconds and then remove it.  The students should try to recreate the image using the tiles on their table.  After a few seconds, I will flash the image again to allow kids to check their work.  I will then cover it and wait a few more seconds.  Finally, I will display the card permanently and tell students to fix their work if they need to.

I then proceed with the routine using Cards B and C.  

"Who can tell me how they saw the first card?"  

Students will offer a variety of answers: "I just knew it was three;" "I counted each of them;" and/or "I saw it as 2+1."  I will allow students to come up and model their thinking (pointing to the displayed image on the Smart Board).  It is the expectation that mathematically proficient students "make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. That they can bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically (CCSS.Math.Practice.MP2)."  This activity is one way of developing this ability with first graders.  

NOTE:  These cards are taken from the Investigations Math Program.  I have included the sheets for you to see, but you will need to create your own set if you don't have permission to copy the Investigations materials.

Oral Stories

20 minutes

I once again start by reviewing the "Solving A Story Problem" poster (in section resource) that is hung in the class.  I am doing this because I want to continue to build upon the concept that you must use a strategy when solving a problem.  I want my students to understand that they need to understand the problem and identify the important information before they try and solve it.

I then tell them "we are going to solve a few problems as a class.  I want you to remember to visualize the story as I read it to you.  Remember I will read the story twice"  I will read them a few addition and subtraction problems.  


Meg had 14 cookies on her plate.  She gave 7 of her cookies to her brother.  How many cookies did Meg have left?

Mr. Young gave 8 stickers to Emma for helping him.  Mr. Hubbard gave her 6 more stickers for helping too.  How many stickers did Emma get for helping?

Lucy had 8 stuffed animals on her bed and 7 stuffed animals on her couch.  How many stuffed animals does she have?

Abby loves goldfish crackers.  For a snack the other day, she had 16 goldfish crackers in her bag.  She decided to eat 7 of them.  How many goldfish crackers does she have left?

After I read each problem, I will walk the students through the process outlined on the "Solving A Story Problem" poster (see section resource).  There is a great video example in this section's resources of a student explaining how she used the previous problems equation to solve the current problems equation.

This activity is helps develop the student's ability to proficiently solve a story problem by "explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and then looking for entry points to its solution (CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1)."

Story Problems

40 minutes

"I start by telling the students that they are now going to work on a packet of story problems.  There will be a lot of problems in this packet and I don't expect that you will finish them all today.  In fact, you will be working on this packet over the next few days."

"When you get to a problem, I want you to try and read it yourself.  If you get stuck, I would like you to ask a friend before you come and ask me.  If there is a name in the story, they will always be Tom, Pat, Kim, or Sam.  Make sure to solve each the problem and show your thinking!"

There are 8 problems in this packet.  It is important that the students realize that they will not solve all of them today. You don't want them to worry about the amount of problems.  In future lessons, these problems will be part of the Center Time. This way students will have an opportunity to work at their own pace.  I will also add "Challenge" problems in a future lesson for those who are reedy for it.

I am going to ask a few students (those who are struggling with reading and/or with story problems in general) to start at a table with me.  This way we can read the problems together, and I can offer individual help based on each students need.  There is a video clip of this intervention, called Small Group Intervention, in in the resource section.

As all of the students are working, you should observe who students are doing with the following:

  • Can the students make sense of the action in the story?
  • What strategies are the students using to solve the problems?
  • How are students recording their work?
    • In the resources, there is a video clip of a student explaining how he solved one of his problems.  This is an example of how you would find the answers to the above questions.  I also included my observation notes (I wrote them right only lesson plan).  I only focused on the small group that I was working with.  I knew that the rest of the students would be clear enough with their work, that i would be able to look at it and use it to answer the above questions.

It is expected that, by the end of the year, 1st grade students can "use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem (CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.1)."  These problems are allowing you to gain an idea of how each student is developing with their progress toward this standard.

Continued Practice

5 minutes

Students should complete the worksheet Number Line Counts.  I want to continue to reinforce the use of the number line and the concepts that we have been working on with our Start At/Stop At routine.  This sheet will offer a quick Formative Assessment of who each student is doing with this concept.  

I have included two pieces of student work.  The first piece is an example of a student who demonstrates that he gets to concept and is fluent with this skill.

The second student didn't finish the sheet today but will tomorrow.  I have included his work because of the notation he used.  I told the students that they could use the number line if needed.  However, I asked them to record NL above any number that they had to use the number line for.  This way I could see who was still needing it.