Sunday, November 18, 2007

Story Problems Galore!

We are beginning our new math book, Putting Together, Taking Apart. This unit supports students in developing strategies for solving addition and subtraction problems based on an understanding of numbers, number relationships, and the operations of addition and subtraction. Students continue to work on counting with an emphasis on developing efficient addition and subtraction strategies.

In order to solve these problems completely, students are asked to follow several steps. These steps are meant to teach students how to organize their work. We teach students that mathematicians are organized and can clearly explain their thinking.

1. Close my eyes and visualize. Students will picture what they think is happening in the story problem.

2. Combining or separating. The next step is to decide if the story problem is describing a combining situation or a separating situation. We do not teach students to search for “key words” when reading the story problem.

3. Write the equation. After students have decided the type of problem, they will need to write out the equation, leaving a blank spot where the answer should be until the equation is solved.

4. Solve it. Now, students will solve the equation using a strategy of their choice. Students are never told which strategy to use to solve a problem. Blog postings thus far have explained how to use tally marks, open number line, and decomposing. I will be posting more strategies soon.

5. Check with a second strategy. Students are to check their work using a second strategy they know. Again, students are never told which strategy to use as long as they use a strategy different from the one used in the previous step.

6. Circle my answer. If the answer matched on both strategies tried, the answer is most likely correct. Students are then asked to circle their answer or write it in the blank space in the original equation.

7. Complete the sentence. The story problem asked an original question that the student was trying to solve. This final step asks students to write in a complete sentence the answer to the problem they were solving.

Let’s look below for a complete example. The only step not visible in the problem below is “close your eyes and visualize," for obvious reasons.

Ms. Groves has 24 pieces of chocolate. Mrs. Ross ate 13 pieces.
How many pieces of chocolate does Ms. Groves have left?

Story Problem Practice online. You will need your own paper to solve the problems on the websites below. Happy solving!

1. Math Playground

2. More Math Playground

3. Still More Math Playground

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