Sunday, July 8, 2012

Problem Solving Made Easy

When it comes to math the one area where our kids always seem to struggle the most is when they are faced with solving a word problem.  Last year we jumped on the math journaling bandwagon in early December and we really noticed some improvement throughout the year in this area.  Not only did we have kids work to solve word problems . . . but we also gave them time to “talk” about math and show their neighbors how they solved the problem.  We taught them how to look for keywords and how to use a variety of manipulatives to solve their problem.  We also encouraged them to be independent thinkers and that it was ok if they didn’t get the correct answer on their own the first time.

A few weeks ago I (Kelly) had the opportunity to attend a week long numeracy workshop presented by Dr. Chris Cain.  He firmly believes that “math IS sexy” . . . and let me tell you, after spending five days with him and doing higher level math problems with confidence I was beginning to think it was kind of sexy myself.  So sexy in fact, that I rushed home and got started on a problem solving unit to use in my classroom this year.  I knew I wanted to continue doing daily math journals so I was anxious to get started!!!

During the course of the workshop Dr. Cain presented information about the basic addition and subtraction problem solving structures.  These structures make up the majority of word problems we expect our young learners to solve.  The trick is often in the language.  We spend so much time teaching students to look for keywords, and come to find out, we are doing it all wrong!!!  Sometimes finding keywords can help students solve a word problem, but the majority of the time they just confuse students.  Instead, if we teach students how to identify which structure the problem fits into they will be more successful.

So . . .we just added a new Back to Basics Problem Solving unit to our TpT store that is based on the problem solving structures mentioned above.  It includes (6) colorful posters that can be displayed in your classroom that illustrate each addition/subtraction structure and a total of 60 generic story problems that can be used throughout the year in math journals.  There are 10 to go with each structure.

problem solving unit



  1. These look AMAZING!

    Heather ([email protected])

  2. This looks so wonderful...very eager to check this out more closely!

  3. This is fabulous girls! So true that the little firsties struggle with word problems and really visualizing how math works. They so do not get enough practice in our math program-we are always supplementing. Well done!

    ~Christy & Tammy

  4. This looks fantastic! I am currently working on a problem solving unit that ties together math and reading.
    Drop by anytime :)

    Creekside Teacher Tales

  5. These look ab fab! My school uses Math in Focus (Singapore Math) and starting in 2nd they do bar models & some of these would be so beneficial to them (and me in 1st of course!!)

    You Might Be a First Grader...

  6. Wow! I was going to create something like this for my new firsties...but you've saved me the blood sweat and tears:) These look fantastic!
    Oceans of First Grade Fun

  7. these are GREAT! I gotta know where you got this precious paper!?