Focusing on the details to solve a word problem

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT draw a detailed picture to solve an addition or subtraction word problem.

Big Idea

Word problems will progress in rigor as my students move to higher grades. I want them to learn now to pay attention to the details and use an illustration as a strategy to solve for the correct sum or difference.

Rev Them Up

5 minutes

First Graders need to be able to count from any given number to 120. This skill is built through constant review and practice. Today, I will have my students use a counting chain to practice this skill. I will give them a random number to start with for each round.

Students, please stand up and create a large circle around the room. We will be using a counting chain and I will give you a number to start with and then send it to the person on my left. When the counting comes back around to me, I will start it again with a different number.

Round 1: start with 44

Round 2: start with 78

Round 3: start with 16

My students usually have two main stumbling points; after 100 and after 110. When they stumble after 100 I remind them it is just like when we start counting; 1, 2, 3, but we put one-hundred in front of it. When they stumble after 110, I remind them what do we say after 10, the answer is 11, so we just need to remember to put one-hundred in front of it. I know this all sound so simple, but it is a pattern that many have already discovered and those that are having trouble have not noticed the pattern yet, so you must point it out to them. This is a skill that they will master with repetition. (1.NBT.1.A).

Whole Group Interaction

15 minutes

I will create a random word problem at the board for my students and I to discuss and solve together. My class has worked on drawing to solve a word problem many times before and this will be a review. My random problem will be;

The Cat in the Hat broke some items in the house. He knocked over 3 lamps, broke 5 toys and made the fish fall out of the dish. How many things did the Cat in the Hat mess up altogether?

I chose to create a discussion problem that contained 3 addends because I really wanted them to focus on several details in a word problem. My students know the characters of the Cat in the Hat and his nemesis, the fish, so this problem helped to engage them, too. 
I also made sure to include a detail without an obvious numerical value assigned to it (the fish). Sometimes first graders hone in on the numbers because, even if they’ve read the problem in detail, processing the information from the word problem story while also holding all of the numbers in their heads and then deciding what operation to use is a very complex process at their developmental level. This is why it helps to slow down and use a strategy, like drawing. I am using this lesson to force them to read and communicate precisely what is happening with the details in the word problems. They have to analyze what is happening in the problem, ex. is there a missing part, is it asking me how many altogether, etc. Once the illustration is complete, symbols are used to create an equation and students think quantitatively (MP2). Check out the picture of us solving at the board and our video discussion.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Print the Dr.Seuss drawing book and copy for each student.

We have been celebrating Read Across America this week and Dr. Seuss' amazing literature. I used his books as inspiration and created word problems based on them. I will ask my students to illustrate each problem and write the math equation to go with each one. Watch them working their problems and enjoying this assignment. 

Drawing is automatic enticement for First Graders and engages them in an age-appropriate activity. They enjoy using art in any subject. The illustrations they create help them see that things are being joined together which is adding and will assist them in translating this visual image into abstract thought in later lessons.


5 minutes

I will pass out a blank piece of paper and provide my students a final problem to solve. This will be handed to me as they line up for our restroom break. They can pick whether to draw a picture or just a number a sentence to give me their answer.

I had 2 dogs in my yard, 3 tarantulas in my bedroom tank, and my brother had 3 hermit crabs in his bedroom. How many pets did my parents have to buy food for?