Getting Stronger with Word Problems

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SWBAT apply their understanding of creating and dividing groups to model and solve word problems

Big Idea

Students can solve real world problems using their understanding of multiplication and division


5 minutes

One of the really cool things about word problems is that we can be authors of math problems, too! There is multiplication and division happening in the world all around us and we’ve been doing some great work to write problems about it.

I took video on my iPad of students reading their story problems to me, and will play 1 problem for a warm-up for students.

The common core requires that students interpret products of whole numbers (3.OA.A.1) and interpret whole number quotients (3.OA.A.2), so we will do a quick warm-up of one of the division problems a student created and use a model, picture or array to solve.

Students should be able to determine what information they know, what they are dividing, and what the solution is. My goal here is to ensure students can develop fluency (3.OA.C.7) by quickly recognizing important information and the relationships between multiplying and dividing. 

Quick Check

10 minutes

As we prepare for common assessments, we are working on one word problem, that requires students to determine which operation is needed to solve, every day . I have a problem written on the board and I ask students to help me solve it.

One thing that I get stuck on when I’m solving problems is what tools I need to solve the problem. I want you all to think back to the tools and strategies we’ve been using, because you may need one to solve this problem!

We discuss how we will solve, we show our steps and then we justify why the other answers are wrong (MP1, MP3). This allows students to understand what the question is asking of them and why the other answers will not be correct (MP2).

We have practiced accountable talk since the beginning of the year, so students must always say “I believe the answer is ____ because ____. Or, I solved it by using ____ and found the answer was _____.” If a student shares an answer without their proof, I always ask ‘why?’


30 minutes

We have already done some great work with multiplication and division. We’ve learned about their relationship, we’ve written word problems and we’ve been practicing getting faster and stronger at solving! We never rush or hurry, but we get better at using our tools to find solutions! Today we are going to push ourselves to think about real world problems that will be asking us to multiply or divide, and we will have to decide which is needed!

I have word problems on their tables and students will have to alternate between the operations. Instead of a multiple choice worksheet we do a lot of hands-on learning including writing and accountable talking. Students choose problems, show their work, to solve and then move on to another problem.

Students must understand what it means to create groups, and what it means to divide things equally. I expect my students to show me how they solved the problem and write a sentence to justify their answers.

It is important that students are able to justify their reasoning and the validity of their answer (MP3, MP4, MP5, MP6). When students must show their work and write out how they knew, how they solved it or what helped them figure it out it helps you identify misconceptions and it helps students become aware of their own problem solving processes and strategies.