Monday, January 27, 2014

Problem Solving with Grade 4 Math

I believe many math teachers would agree that although fractions can be a challenge for students, solving word problems would be rated as a close second. It has been my experience working in an Urban district that students lack the "know how" to “Make sense and persevere in solving word problems”. It is a typical scenario when our students see a word problem they call out, “Miss, Miss, how do you do this?”  

So why won’t students just dive right in to word problems?  I believe there are many factors that contribute to this; such as language barriers, too much information in the problem, fear of not being able to solve word problems, or lack of a plan in solving them, among others. Yet with the Common Core State Standards in the works and the SBAC looming over our heads there is a dire need to equip students with the “know how” to tackle word problems. As we look into the Common Core Standards we can see that there is a greater emphasis placed on problem solving than on computation.   

In my position as a math coach I am responsible for supporting the teachers and students in my school therefore I believe it is necessary that I get a feel for teaching through these standards. My plan is to work with a group of 4th grade students,  meet 3 times per week (40 minute sessions), teach them how to create and solve word problems, and alleviate the fear or angst when they encounter them. Students will be using the program Shooloo as a tool to work backwards from. Students will not only be able to solve word problems with more confidence by creating and writing their own, but also make sense of the problems. . Shooloo allows students to write, publish, solve, and share authentically created word problems, thereby making math fun.  I am excited to work on a unit in math with the incorporation of technology in order to accomplish this goal. The focus of the lessons will be based on :

Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.OA.A.1 Interpret a multiplication equation as a comparison, e.g., interpret 35 = 5 × 7 as a statement that 35 is 5 times as many as 7 and 7 times as many as 5. Represent verbal statements of multiplicative comparisons as multiplication equations.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.OA.A.2 Multiply or divide to solve word problems involving multiplicative comparison, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem, distinguishing multiplicative comparison from additive comparison.1
  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.OA.A.3 Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding.
At the end of each week I will journal the weekly lessons and student participation with feedback on how we are progressing. I am going to set the stage for what was accomplished thus far in Week 1 of our Problem Solving Unit.
Week 1 - Administration of Pre-test
   Mini - lesson # 1: Introduction & Review of Problem Solving
   Mini-Lesson #2: Words and Operations Graphic Organizer
   Mini - lesson # 3 & 4 : Shooloo Lesson #5 Creating one - step word problems

Students were able to come up with many of keywords associated with the operations used in word problems. They then used the Operational Graphic Organizer to create and write 4 word problems in Shooloo using each of the 4 operations. This was followed by students constructively  commenting on 3 other students math posts.

Please visit my Professional Learning Hub for lessons and resources.

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