Hey, do your kids groan when they see word problems? Do they fake it and just guess their way through? Do they just give up?Imagine if they did them anyway, and did them correctly!Last night I was helping my grandson with his algebra I homework. I must say I love his teacher. He always assigns the end of the section problems. You know, the word problems with parts a, b, c , and even d! The amazing part is, my grandson doesn’t balk too much because I’ve shown him a few strategies that make word problems less daunting! Here’s the laundry list that always works for me:- Be prepared to read, reread, reread….
- Stop and repeat when you notice confusion or something that might be really important!
- Put the problem or parts of the problem in your own words!
- Compare the problem to another problem or to what you already know.
- Circle the question. (Write it down if you can’t mark in a book or write on your computer screen!)
- Look for key words or phrases! (Provide students with this list or have them make a list in their math notebook!)
- Underline important words and phrases. (See #5 if you use books or online practice problems.)
- Write notes about the problem to help you remember important stuff.
- Define or figure out what confusing words mean (especially if they are math words!)
- Pick a strategy and use it! (Provide students with this list or have them make a list in their math notebook. I have seen students also take pictures on their phones of the strategy charts in their classroom and then used the photo while working problems!)
- Check your answer. Does it make sense? Does it answer the question you circled?
Now here are two big ongoing follow up steps to teaching students to use these strategies:Make sure they are USING the strategies!!!! For example, let’s say they come to you for help with, “I don’t get this…..” Your immediate response is, “How many times did you read it?” If they pass that question with flying colors, “What is the problem about?” The idea is you just guide them through the steps and make it obvious to them that this is what you are doing! Secondly, make sure YOU are USING the strategies!!!!Practice what you preach. Model, Model, Model! Teaching kids to overcome their fear of word problems is key to empowering them mathematically. Just think how building their math confidence builds their overall confidence. Don’t you just love that you get to teach math and impact so many young people in this way? Kinda gives you goosies, huh?
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Here is one of the first exercises I take teachers and administrators through when they work with me. Before we get into the nitty gritty details of transforming their math instruction, I ask them to do the following:
Write a description of your dream for each of the following:Your classroom set up Your classroom procedures and rituals (Remember, this is how you want it to be, not what you think your kids can handle.) How students communicate and collaborate in your classroom How students problem solve and engage the 8 Math Practices How students persist in learning new, challenging material How students engage with technology How you differentiate instruction and assessment to meet the needs of all your students How your data looks by the end of the year How your students enjoy math How students are empowered by math What else do you dream about for your math class? Go ahead. Dream. This is a perfect day. And then… take a step in faith, even though you cannot see the whole staircase! Hey, thought you might like some collaboration tips on how to get your Kids thinking and talking about math. Why is collaboration so important in a math class? Three big reasons:- Build deeper understanding
- Provide a structure for engagement and participation
- Provide opportunities for students to attack rigorous problems by using the Eight Math Practices, specifically MP1 and MP3.
Here are some secondary reasons:- Students feel supported and have more resources available, not just the teacher to ask
- They’re going to talk anyway, why not about math?
Now, I must admit it was hard for me to make “collaboration” pay off at first. My students always wanted to talk about everything else but the math! Another problem I had was the same students did all the thinking, talking, and writing while the others sat by unengaged. I was tempted to throw in the towel many times. I was leery of administrators poking their heads in my door to see what all the noise was about! I didn’t give up though, because I saw it working for other teachers. I picked up many good tips and put together a system for teaching my students HOW to collaborate so they could all be involved in the learning. In fact, on some days when I just wanted to lecture, they would stop me short and ask, “When do we get to collaborate?” Ok, I got the message. I should hand the math talking over to them so they can do the thinking, talking, learning, etc. So here are a few of my BEST tips to get you started:**Identify collaboration groups and/or partners well in advance**of when you want to have students collaborate. They need to be familiar with each other and the idea that they will be working together. The worst thing to happen is to lose instructional time because someone wants to balk at who they are expected to work with on the spur of the moment.**Host teambuilding, get-to-know-you activities prior**to collaboration, and periodically throughout the year. Every time you switch partners or create new groups, you should do at least one teambuilding exercise as well. Of course, these activities can be designed to reinforce a mathematical skill you want your students to master!**Teach simple protocols for different kinds of collaborati****on.**Think what structures are necessary for when students are doing Think-Pair-Shares, Check with your partner, Projects, etc.**Introduce and teach the protocols around easy, fun topic****s**so the focus is on learning the protocol, not the content.**Protocols include specifics**around- How to take turns
- How to “hear every voice”
- How to record ideas and prepare to share
- How to come to decisions
- How to agree, disagree, and question
- How to encourage each other to stay on task
So this is a good start! Would you like more on this topic? How about a FREE Webinar or PDF with more details on #2, 4, and 5? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Thanks! Here is another question to ask your students. It’s quick and powerful.
Here’s the question: “What do you need to get started?” Once you try this question, you’ll use it every day. I still use it when I go into classrooms to model lessons, and even when I’m training teachers. How many times have you delivered some top notch instruction? You think you were crystal clear. You assign the independent practice. Your students start to work…..most of them. What about the ones who don’t? What about the ones who never seem to get started? I used to nag them and ask really ineffective questions like: Why aren’t you working? When are you going to get started? You need to get started. Do you need help? These questions are problematic in that they are perceived as threatening or condescending. They do not motivate kids to get started. So what works? Just walk up to them and ask, “What do you need to get started?” This magic question implies that you expect them to get started, and you have confidence in them that they will get started. It is respectful, yet holds them accountable for taking part in their own learning.When you ask this question, one of two things happens. A) They say, “Nothing,” and they immediately move to action. B) They say, “I need a pencil.” Or, “I need paper.” They tell you what they need and then they pull it out or go get it and get started. Yay! So simple. No conflict. Don’t you love simple?Use this question today and watch what happens! Hey, Linda here with a super simple math question you must ask your students. This question is so simple, your older students will look at you like you’re crazy. The answer is so obvious, or is it?
Simplicity is the beauty of the question. Here in lies the power of the question. The answer seems so easy, yet when you think more creatively, there are many alternate, unexpected answers. Your strugglers and Math haters will love it. This is how they think, outside the text booky, orthodox box. I was listening to my mentor talk yesterday and he posed a question. Here is what he asked. Consider this problem. 1 + 1 = ?Of course you immediately think 2. Duh… Then he said, “Ok, you’re probably thinking the answer is 2, but is it always 2?Math teachers might then think well, in binary system it would equal 10. But he went on to say, “If you add one puddle to another puddle, how many puddles do you have?” Wow! Nice perspective! Now my mentor is not a math teacher, and in fact, has nothing to do with schools. His point was that what we believe to be undisputable truth, can actually hold us stuck in limitation. It felt good to be caught off guard like this and experience a mental dissonance. It was a great reminder that students who are bored or “hating” math might just perceive the world from a different angle. Questions like this might actually be a fun way to engage them and get all your students thinking more deeply about the problems they are asked to solve. Do This:Here is what you can do. Give this problem to your students as a do now. Just write the 1 + 1 = ? problem on your board in whatever form that is appropriate for your students. After they have all had a chance to answer, ask them, “Who has a different answer?” They may look puzzled, or you may have a few who actually do have another answer. Ask them to explain. Then give your puddle answer and challenge them to work with a partner to identify other solutions. Make a list of all the solutions.Extension:Use this problem as a springboard to welcome them to a new year of math and a new way of thinking about math and their life. Introduce them to the idea of “mindset.” Encourage them to think of this problem when they are “stuck” on thinking that isn’t producing the results they want. Encourage them to find other problems like this that have multiple, unexpected solutions. And…….for yourself, remember that the problems you experience with students have multiple, unexpected solutions as well! But more on this as the year progresses! In the meantime, look for the next blog. You’ll get a peek at more of these cool questions with a twist as we look at the Walley Test! |
## Linda CordesTeacher, Coach, and Founder of RED Hot Teaching and RED Hot Math shares her best tips with you here! ## Archives
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