Monday, February 15, 2016

Math Word Problems

As we all know, math word problems are one of the hardest things to tackle.  We have all struggled with how long it will a train to travel across the country at a certain speed or if Alice has five apples and gives two away, just how many apples will Alice have left.  However, the math problems have certainly increased in rigor and length.  Even my highest math students have had to grapple and show perseverance to come up with an sensible answer for many of the word problems I present to them. 

My main focus with math and writing this year is for the students to determine what is important in the math problem and to identify the various steps that are needed to solve the multi-step problems.  My expectation is that the students will write the steps taken, to justify their answers and to also support the validity of their answers.  For many of my students it is very hard for them to do these three things.  I have several students that are so lucky to have the answer "pop in to their heads."  It is my hope that by expecting them to slow down and detail the steps they take and also justify and convince me that their answer is reasonable, that we can bridge persuasion and math.  I am also hoping that by the end of the year I can find a way to have the students write a persuasive piece justifying an answer to a complicated word problem.  Anyone have any ideas to share ??


  1. Tracy, I completely agree that the rigor of what students are being asked to do today in fifth Grade is certainly much higher than what was asked of me as a fifth grader!! Who do you find has more trouble outlining the steps to solving the problem?
    students who have the idea "pop into their heads"
    students who have to work at solving the problem
    or there are equal amounts of students who struggle with explaining how they got to the answer?

  2. Tracy, I can also relate to the pressure for students to perform at a higher level. It has been a real challenge for me because the 6th Grade curriculum includes more Algebra and is more aligned to 7th grade. Therefore kids that normally successful are beginning to struggle. They are starting to understand the importance of grit. Also, in 6th grade, the problems include multiple steps with multiple concepts in one problem. Students are so use to doing a word problem with on concept only and must now be able to understand problems with multiple concepts. This is a big leap from previous years.