It's a cold snowy day, two weeks before Christmas. Students are squirrely! They've checked out. But they can't! We can't afford to lose a beat. It's just after lunch and I have to teach them how to pull apart word problems and solve them. Word problems are NOT a favorite math activity.
To spice it all up, I picked a counting video that they enjoy. We have done it before, but counting by sevens is hard. And,this goofy little video is just fun.We played it twice. They were Dancin' to Sevens in a chain around the room. When we were done, I asked them to stop and count by sevens starting with the number 2.
"Let's see if we get to 100." And we did! I did this because it is easier to count by multiples of 7. But, if you have to think about adding seven...whew! They worked hard at it and all agreed it was tough.
This type of counting I like to practice as much as possible. We often do it when we are standing in line and waiting, or on a whim in the middle of the day. It just deepens their number sense and sharpens their mental math skills.
I thought it was important to start this lesson off with getting my students to solve a challenging multi step word problem. Word problems seem to be really weak.
So, I started by using this notebook lesson: Word Problems Notebook File for You
I asked them to solve the word problem in their notebook using what they had learned in their past to solve word problems. I gave them about 10 minutes to think, set up proof of their thinking through equations and strategies, and solve. When I thought they were done, I asked them to share the strategies they used. Almost every student did not use any type of strategy to pull apart the word problem! Even though this has been done and mastered in the past place value/addition and subtraction unit, they forgot. They just focused on the answer!
So, I really had to pull their prior knowledge of how to use strategies out of them. The first one that popped up was area model and expanded model. Eventually, the KWS ( What do I know, What do I want to know, and How will I solve it?) strategy was offered up. I was hoping it would be the first one, since it has been the strategy we use the most to successfully dissect word problems.
Solving word problems Notebook file: Class Notes shows the process as we worked through understanding what we already know, and how to use it. I moved over to my white board and we solved the first word problem together. We used the KWS strategy and created equations. Some of the equations had words instead of variables because we just couldn't come up with appropriate variables. I told them that sometimes we have to use what makes sense to develop theequation. Algebraic reasoning is present and proven, there are symbols representing the unknown and there is a solution that is noted correctly. I explained that this is the most important part of solving word problems.
I pointed out the difference between the equation with the variable and the expanded model that I used to solve the equation. My students regard a standard algorithm as an equation. So, I have to continually point out the difference.We reviewed that this is the difference between a "situation equation" and the "solution equation."
I turned to the second page on the Smart Board file. We discussed why an equation helps.Why are equations important?. I know I need to keep talking and modeling with my students about the role the equation plays in solving problems.
Today, I assigned Homework 3-5 Word Problems from Houghton Mifflin, Math Expressions, for students to work on in class. I wanted to monitor their equation writing.Students set to work using their strategies, expanded models and area model to solve the problems.
As they worked, I roved the classroom and monitored their progress. I noticed they are still really uncomfortable with trying to write equations. They can solve the problems easily. But, they aren't thinking in terms creating equations. In this video clip, my student can solve the problem by reading it, but the standard requires that equations are used. I direct them back to a KWS chart. She was telling me just prior to the clip that she didn't understand how to solve it. As you can see, getting students to think at higher levels about math is not easy. As they are practicing by using equations, I am finding it one of my greatest challenges again, just as I did when I taught word problems with subtraction and addition.