In my current position, as a teaching coach and professional development teacher, many conversations with teachers and colleagues are centered around finding and implementing meaningful and engaging math activities that would allow students to work independently while the teacher meets with small groups. Small groups seem to be implemented in reading much smoother. Daily 5 has provided many teachers with a basic layout and ideas for the students you are not meeting with in small group. Math seems to be a much larger struggle for teachers to develop activities that do not require daily prep and planning. As a coach and previous classroom teacher, I understand that there are many other things that require daily planning and upkeep that continually increase a teacher’s workload.
With that in mind, I wanted to create a resource that would promote critical thinking and collaboration while reinforcing math skills without requiring teachers to constantly make copies or rearrange the delivery or display of materials.
Hence the creation of Working on Word Problems.
Why is word problem practice so important?
Language proficiency directly effects a student’s level of success with word problems. Students who are less proficient with their language are significantly less successful with word problems in comparison to problems that involve strictly numbers. More exposure and practice with word problems will help build students’ language, strategies, and skills.
How can we support students with word problems?
In my room, there were two strategies I would use on a daily basis with my students. These strategies helped the students gain a complete understanding of what the word problem was asking or telling them to do.
A Helpful Resource and Free Downloads
The concept behind this resource is for students to utilize the provided images to think critically to problem solve math tasks and to connect with classmates. This resource provides teachers with 33 detailed scenic images for year-long use!
Picture themes include: Soccer Game, Birthday, Lemonade Stand, Santa’s Workshop, Camping, Library, Christmas, Desert, Pumpkin Patch, Fall Field, Thanksgiving, Lunchroom, Classroom, Gym Class, Farm, Western, Mountain, Winter, Ice Skating, Arctic, Playground, School Office, Ocean, Grocery Store, Main Street, Zoo, Beach, Fire Station, Pool Party, Space, Pirate, Rainforest, Music Class
Each week, you select a picture to use. This picture will be used each time the students interact with this resource that week. For each picture, there are two specific task cards provided- Can You Fix It? and Can You Solve It? The word problem on each card is identical, but the Can You Fix It? task card has already been incorrectly solved. Students are tasked with not only comprehending the word problem, but also finding the errors in the solution provided and then solving it correctly. The Can You Solve It? task card only provides the word problem for students to solve. This gives you the option to select which is appropriate for your students or allows you to differentiate for students in your class. You could assign the Can You Fix It? task card to your more advanced students and the Can You Solve It? task card to the rest of your students.
These task cards that are specific for a picture are optional to use, because there are also 16 general task cards included. These task cards include bar graphs, tally chart, sorting/categorizing, place value, different number forms, addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, patterns, 2-D shapes, 3-D shapes, number bonds, and symmetry. This allows you to pick and choose what you think is best for all or groups of your students.
These task cards will push students to think critically about the picture to make connections between that and the task. Anytime that multiplication or division is mentioned in a generic or picture-specific task card, there is always an option provided with a lower level solution using subtraction and/or addition.
If you are interested in what you are seeing, make sure you grab the free download at the end of this post to receive a sample picture and two task cards that model what is in the paid for resource!
To keep your students motivated and doing their personal best (using this resource and others), try using my Rate Your Work free resource. This is available in the free download at the bottom of this post. You could have students rate their work each time they interact with this resource or at the end of each week. Bring students together for a class meeting and let students who are comfortable with sharing, present their work and reflection to the class. I would recommend sharing examples of what you would consider a 1, 2, 3, and 4 prior to students utilizing independently. This rating will allow students to reflect on their work, allow you to see how confident the students are in their work, and give students the opportunity to share their hard work and strategies with each other.
Here is an example of what a week could look like! I chose the Main Street picture for the week. The task cards I selected for the week are:
Write a Word Problem
Can You Fix It?
Connecting to a Recent Strategy Learned
Creating a Story with Equations
Solving a Classmate’s Problem
In this option, the teacher would just need to swap out the task card each day.
Another way to organize the resource, would be to display a few cards on a binder ring or in an envelope as picture below. This way students can choose which day they work on which task card.
If you choose to have students collaborate while they work on tasks, you will want to establish clear expectations. In order to promote effective collaboration among your students, you can utilize the Collaborate Effectively poster, which is available in the free download at the bottom of this post.
When students are using the task cards that task them with writing and solving each other’s word problems, creating class notebooks would be a great way for them to share and look back on their classmate’s work. I found the smaller brown notepads at Dollar Tree which provide enough room to compose a word problem on one page and solve on the next. I provided these notebook covers in a smaller and larger size to give you options!
When solving the other task cards, you will need to decide what will work best in your room. You may want to use a notebook or lined paper. I provided a resource sheet that you may chose to use with a reminder of the steps students should follow when solving one of these task cards.
I am big into staying organized (except my car!) To me, it made the most sense to organize these resources in page protectors in a binder. I would recommend laminating everything first and that way because of the lamination and safe storage, this resource should last multiple years.
This resource will have such a positive impact on your students’ abilities to collaborate with classmates, gain confidence in their mathematically thinking, and build their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
If you want to utilize this resource in your classroom- click here for the Working on Word Problems Resource. This 197 page resource is packed with over 30 pages of organizational tools and implementation suggestions, 33 detailed pictures, 33 spelling resource pages, and over 90 pages of task card options.
Don’t forget about the free download!