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The school year is off to a roaring start, and this is the year that I figure out how to teach problem solving strategies (and continue making students show their problem solving strategies). Why I like it: It gives students a very specific “what to do.” Why I don’t like it: With all of the annotating of the problem, I’m not sure that students are actually reading the problem. Why I like it: Students are forced to think about what type of problem it is (factoring, division, etc) and then come up with a plan to solve it using a strategy sentence. Check stands for understand, plan, solve, and check.Problem solving strategies are pivotal to word problems. None of the steps emphasize reading the problem but maybe that is a given. This is a great strategy to teach when you are tackling various types of problems. Why I like it: I love that there is a check step in this strategy.Strategies are things that Pólya would have us choose in his second stage of problem solving and use in his third stage (What is Problem Solving? So they are some sort of general ideas that might work for a number of problems. As speaking in riddles isn’t likely to be of much assistance to you, let’s get down to some examples.
Guess and improve is slightly more sophisticated than guess and check.
The idea is that you use your first incorrect guess to make an improved next guess. In relatively straightforward problems like that, it is often fairly easy to see how to improve the last guess. Children themselves take the role of things in the problem.
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.
On the other hand, it can also be cumbersome when used by groups, especially if a largish number of students is involved.
We have, however, found it a useful strategy when students have had trouble coming to grips with a problem.In word problems, there are so many words that need decoding, extra information, and opportunities for students to solve for something that the question is not asking for. Why I don’t like it: Though I love the opportunity for students to write in math, writing a strategy statement for every problem can eat up a lot of time. Students having to defend the reasonableness of their answer is essential for students’ number sense. S stands for circle the important numbers, underline the question, box the words that are keywords, eliminate extra information, and solve by showing work. S stands for read the problem, underline the question, name the problem type, and write a strategy sentence.The on-looking children may be more interested in acting it out because other children are involved.Sometimes, though, the children acting out the problem may get less out of the exercise than the children watching.Why I don’t like it: It can be a little vague and doesn’t give concrete “what to dos.” Checking that students completed the “understand” step can be hard to see. It doesn’t have a name yet, or an acronym, (so can it even be considered a strategy…?) but I will have the steps on an anchor chart in my room. I have rolled this out to students, and it went decently.Common Problem Solving Strategies We have provided a copymaster for these strategies so that you can make posters and display them in your classroom.It consists of a page per strategy with space provided to insert the name of any problem that you come across that uses that particular strategy (Act it out, Draw, Guess, Make a List).We have found that this kind of poster provides good revision for children. Through these links, children can see that mathematics is not only connected by skills but also by processes.We now look at each of the following strategies and discuss them in some depth. If they can also check that the guess fits the conditions of the problem, then they have mastered guess and check.