Monday, January 9, 2012

Word Problems Strategies

Today we finished a short unit on multi-step word problems and strategies/tools to help us solve them. I am always amazed at how much kiddos struggle with multi-step word problems (I was the same way in elementary school). It's hard to dig through all the words and figure out what we need to do exactly to solve the problems. I am hoping that after the last couple of days students will have so skills to help them in this area.

After taking a pre-test we brainstormed different words that are keywords for math operations. For example, when ever we see the word per we know to divide. We also took a look at a problem solving video at Studyjams. I love, love, LOVE this website for videos geared towards math and science. The characters appeal to upper elementary so well. They have a great list of operation keywords!

The following day we talked about different ways to solve math problems. We looked at numerous word problems that had us draw pictures, find patterns, make lists, make charts, write an equation, and think logically. We talked about what style works best for them and how they learn.

Then came the step-by-step strategy to help students work through a word problem. I got the idea from Oh Boy 4th Grade Blog. This amazingly, creative teacher has created a pencil strategy using colors of the rainbow. For each color students have a different task. Students now have colored pencils in their math boxes. With red they underline the question, orange-box keywords, yellow-circle numbers, green-solve, blue-show all work, and purple-check answers. I made an anchor chart to remind students the steps and they recorded it in their math journal. The teacher at Oh Boy 4th Grade has laminated cards for all her students for sell, and I hope to purchase them when I have a class of my own.
Now that we have strategies we have practiced different multi-step word problems using the above pencil strategy numerous times. Students even took a turn writing their own problems. We will keep using this strategy and then as they get confident I will take away the colored pencils. The colors at this point are such a great way to organize their thinking. Hopefully, we see some growth after using the strategy on their post test.
Colored Pencils in Action!

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