Elementary Math Problem Solving Strategies

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Every year my students can be fantastic at math…until they start to see math with words.

For some reason, once math gets translated into reading, even my best readers start to panic.

I provided them with example cards of “students” who had completed their assignments already, and I wanted them to be the teacher.

They needed to check the work and make sure it was completed correctly.

Then, I provided them with the “keys to success.” We did this over and over with example problems.

Once I felt the students had it down, we practiced it in a game of problem-solving relay. We talked about how this was where we were going to choose which strategy we were going to use.We discussed these thinking strategies: To make sure they were getting in practice utilizing these thinking strategies, I gave each group chart paper with a letter from a fellow “student” (not a real student), and they had to give advice on how to help them solve their problem using the thinking strategies above.Finally, This is the step that students often miss. I went over it with them, discussing that when they check their problems, they should always look for these things: Then, I gave students practice cards.I provided students with plenty of practice of the strategies, such as in this guess-and-check game. I also provided them with paper dolls and a variety of clothing to create an organized list to determine just how many outfits their “friend” would have.Then, as I said above, we practiced in a variety of ways to make sure we knew exactly when to use them. Anyway, after I knew they had down the various strategies and when to use them, then we went into the actual problem-solving steps.There is just something about word problems, or problem-solving, that causes children to think they don’t know how to complete them. I put together a problem-solving unit that would focus a bit more on strategies and steps in hopes that that would create problem-solving stars.Every year in math, I start off by teaching my students problem-solving skills and strategies. First, I wanted to make sure my students all learned the different strategies to solve problems, such as guess-and-check, using visuals (draw a picture, act it out, and modeling it), working backward, and organizational methods (tables, charts, and lists).You will see that each strategy we have in our list is really only a summary of two or more others.1 Guess This stands for two strategies, guess and check and guess and improve. This is a strategy that would certainly work on the Farmyard problem but it could take a lot of time and a lot of computation.Because it is such a simple strategy to use, you may have difficulty weaning some children away from guess and check.There are a number of common strategies that children of primary age can use to help them solve problems.We discuss below several that will be of value for problems on this web-site and in books on problem solving.


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