Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Ole' Problem Solving

As we dig deeper into Common Core, we're finding that more and more of our Math is looking like those good ole' fashioned "word problems" (as they were called in back in the day).  Our students can't seem to get enough of them.  The more tasks they do and are able to solve, the more they seem to want them!  I think the thing students are enjoying most is the challenge itself.  Speaking of "back in the day," I can't help but wonder if I had been given an opportunity to solve some real world problems with my friends, been able to talk about them, share our ideas, make a plan of action, implement, and solve them, I might have been a little more successful at problem solving.  All I remember is someone telling me to look for key words like "all together" and "difference."  Yes, those are important too, but shouldn't drive how a student goes about solving a problem.  There are many ways to solve problems.
At an inservice this summer our presenter gave us a super difficult 5th grade math task.  She gave us a few minutes to think about it and plan for how we would solve.  I began drawing pictures because I'm an artist...Um, no, that's how my brain works!  When my table got a chance to get together and share how we solved the problem, I was amazed at the different strategies all the teachers used to get it!  I honestly didn't even understand how one teacher got there, but she did! (She must be gifted!)  
Anyhow, I loved the process and although my title says "Literacy Coach," I've been able to work with some small groups of students.  Their little faces light up when I bring in some problem solving for them.  It's no longer a chore, but a coveted challenge.  They want to show me not one way, but multiple ways they can arrive at the same answer.  Check out the work a group of 2nd graders did for me today trying to figure out what combination of 14 coins made $2.14.  Each one worked individually on the outside of the circle while discussing with each other what worked and didn't.  What did it sound like?  "Don't try a bunch of pennies...that sure didn't work." "I tried half dollars and some quarters, but that doesn't work either."  "I'm getting closer when I change my quarters to dimes and nickels."  "I'm giving this problem to my DAD!"
What did it look like?  A MESS!  Don't ya' love their scribbles where they tried something and it didn't work?  When they finally arrived at the answer it went in the middle so they could proudly display their accomplishment.  

All this problem solving motivated me to create a problem of the day activity for each month.  I actually started in early October, but it took me longer than I hoped to finish.  So...the October one is done and October is about OVER!  Yes, that's how I roll sometimes.  :-)  I scrambled to finish NOVEMBER for those that want to start right away!  Click on the image for a trip to my TpT store to investigate. It's geared specifically with 3rd grade in mind, but 4th would enjoy, and if you have some high flying 2nd graders, they'd be challenged!  If you like it, let me know and I'll throw the October one in FREE for ya' from now until the end of November!   

UPDATE to this post:  I now have 7 months complete!  October through April units are finished! You can get them individually, or all bundled up for a cheaper price!  (Bundle purchasers will simply need to re-download every time I add a new month to the unit at no additional cost!)

Bananas for math when it's fun,