Reflection: Problembased Approaches Monster Math  Section 3: Independent Practice  Create Your Own Monster Math Stories!
Eventually students will develop a sense of which model works best for them, but at this early stage of their development of an understanding of multiplication, it’s critical to give them a thinking model. This way they can organize themselves and focus on understand the process rather than trying to figure out and order the steps for this particular activity.
Over my years of teaching, including many at a backtobasics school where everything was supposed to be neat and wellspelled at all times, I’ve learned the value of task analysis. Sure, the END products need to be readable, and if they are going to be displayed, they must be neat and correctly spelled. But in the context of this, or any lesson, it’s important to prioritize what to really focus on. If I neglected to give children a thinking model upon which they could build their monster word problems, then working on sequencing, following multiplestep directions, and creating multiplication stories would all be toptier tasks.
I want the toptier task in this lesson to be thinking about multiplication as a problem with an unknown product, multiplication as an equation with an unknown factor, and how multiplication can be represented within the context of a story. The additional task in this lesson is a language task, adding interesting details and dependent clauses. By providing students with a mental model I am in no way lessening the cognitive load, but I am making it more focused and productive.
Monster Math
Lesson 10 of 11
Objective: Students will be able to attend to precision in solving multiplication story problems, and persevere in reading carefully to find the necessary information and eliminate irrelevant details.
Introduction
Today our lesson is multiplication word story practice with the basic multiplication facts up to 100.
The work requires that students attend to precision and eliminate extraneous information in each problem. I created imaginative short paragraphs to assist my students in persevering in finding the information they need to solve the equation.
It is my expectation that my students can define vocabulary words using context clues. A short glossary is provided at the bottom of the 2nd page of the worksheet to assist ELL students.
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Guided Practice
Students will need to work through at least the first four problems in Monster Math Multiplication Stories as part of a whole or possibly small group. The vocabulary is high and there is unnecessary information embedded into the problems as well.
After that, there are several ways to approach the remaining problems. This is a lesson in which I find that drawing color pictures as we solve the problems, and projecting them using a document camera, works well.

Here are models that can be projected if you do not wish to draw your own monsters! These are model images for questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
* Note to the teacher! There is no multiplication problem to solve in #4. Students just need to read carefully. Most of them will try to create a multiplication problem out of nothing, because this is a page on multiplication.
Independent Practice:
I circulate while students are working on the remaining problems but I deliberately try not to assist students, unless the student is at a dead end. Productive struggle is a good thing! The math fact knowledge required to create equations and solutions for these monster math stories is at a 3rd grade level, but the wording of the stories themselves is more sophisticated.
My goal is for students to persist in solving a problem (MP1) even if they don't understand all the vocabulary in the math story. These stories contain some high level vocabulary but it is possible to solve the problems without understanding all the words. Reading for what is important, and using context clues to solve the rest, is an important life skill and is embedded in the multiplication word story work here.
Whole Group:
I don't expect students to practice strategies they haven't been taught. If students have not been practicing close reading, crossing out extraneous information, and reading a word problem more than once then they made need more support throughout the rest of this activity. In that case, pull them back as a group.
Students are often in a rush to finish their work, and problems such as these reinforce the need to slow down and think it through. If they just skim the problems and look for the numbers, it will not necessarily lead them to the solution. If they read carefully, and cross out the irrelevant information, the actual math itself is not complex.
ELL/ lowreader scaffolding:
I use grammar minilessons and integrated grammar to help my ELL students AND all students read gradelevel text with purpose and understanding.
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In this part of the lesson, students create their own monster story problems. I wrote, on the board, a very simple suggested template to help them. In writing their story problem, I instruct students to:
 Name your monster
 Determine the number of monsters in your group, between 2 and 10
 Determine the number of objects each of the monsters has
 Write your question
Students are told not to add in extraneous information until their problem had been checked by two peers, or the teacher, to make sure the problems have all the required components.
Those who were ready to do this on their own stay at their seats, and I call students who need a bit more scaffolding to the carpet and we write a few together. I do this by suggesting details to keep the task moving, and then use their ideas to fill in the blanks. For these examples, I don't add in extraneous information.
Enrichment / Extension
I have another page of Monster Math Multiplication Word Problems stories that I use with my more advanced students who are ready to proceed with this kind of challenge on their own. After they create their story problem, they work on this page alone or in a partnership.
You could also use this as Homework.
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Wrapup
At the end of the lesson time, I ask my students to give an example of a problem in which they found it difficult to eliminate the unnecessary information, and then to explain how they resolved their confusion. They discuss this with a partner.
For those who are having difficulty articulating that rather complex thought, I ask them to explain in their own words why it's important to read word problems carefully, and perhaps point to an example we had done in class. If they answer, "To get it right", I prompt them to tell me more using "how" and "why" questions.
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