Math word problems. Three words that can evoke trembling and fear in the hearts of many. As an intervention specialist working with fifth grade students with special needs, I understand the frustration. My kiddos struggle with general reading comprehension in addition to math reasoning and basic math facts. Story problems are one of the most difficult aspects of keeping up with grade level math. They aren’t the only ones struggling with story problems, though.
This year, I am lucky enough to be co-teaching math twice a week to the entire fifth grade at my elementary building. (You can read more about that here.) The general education teacher and I have had many discussions on how best to proceed with our group of kids. The majority of them struggle greatly with math and have not mastered third grade concepts. We decided that instead of both of us hitting the same topic when I’m co-teaching with her, I would focus primarily on problem solving skills. This is where Laura Candler’s Daily Math Puzzlers come in.
The systematic, sequential program begins by teaching kids four steps of problem solving: Read, Think, Solve, and Check. I followed the directions included on how to introduce the steps and it was quite easy. Of course, I had to add my own little twist to it. I always do. I had my students act out each step. They held their hands out like they were holding a book for “Read”, a finger to the head was “Think”, pretend writing on their hand was “Solve”, and drawing a gigantic checkmark in the air was “Check”. They were all able to memorize the steps quite quickly…and had fun doing it!
After the kids had the steps down, we progressed to learning the different strategies for solving word problems. The first one was Drawing Pictures, which they were all familiar with. Each strategy includes directions and sample problems to solve. Their favorite strategy so far is Guess and Check. They really got into that one! 🙂
In addition to practice problems, Laura included activities, a parent letter, motivational techniques, and games in the kit. It really has a lot to work with.
Now, because most of my fifth graders are working significantly below grade level in math, I chose to use Level B (did I forget to mention that there are different levels available???). My philosophy is to teach them where they are and to take them as far as you can.
I would love to hear your tips on working with kids who struggle with math word problems. Leave your ideas or favorite tips in the comments!