There are many ways to teach problem solving to elementary students. Most students are successful with a well structured problem solving plan. However, we all have at least a few students who just don’t “get it” with regular classroom lessons. Working one on one or in small groups and applying well planned interventions helps these students find success. Last week I shared my first three top tips and today I am sharing the next three tips:
Some students understand the questions just fine, but have trouble seeing the big picture, the story or the scenario. These students need extra help laying out the details. Most students will benefit from instruction in drawing pictures or making diagrams, and struggling students will especially need to practice with this. I like to teach my students how to make part-part-whole and whole-part-part models.
We will discuss each clue and label it as a part or the whole and then work from there. Strip diagrams and unit bars work well too. I also like to encourage students to make actual pictures of the clues. I am no artist and the kids like to laugh at my drawings with me!
This is so important for students who have trouble visualizing the actions in the problem. An example could be using this problem below with Martina and her purse. I will get play money out and we will actually act out the story with the play money. Another example could be to use colored counters with the apple story below. Now there are some big numbers so you could use smaller numbers to practice acting it out and then transfer the actions to your paper with the larger numbers.
Sometimes students get caught up by the big numbers and can’t focus on the actions in the problem. For these students you can cross out the big numbers, substitute with smaller numbers and have them solve. Then apply the actions to the bigger numbers. If needed, use manipulatives to help build understanding.
Missed Part 1 from last week? Find it here:
Geometry is one of my favorite units to teach! Maybe it is because I like to quilt so the patterns and shapes are fun for me! Maybe it is because there are so many hands on activities for my students! Some of my favorite activities for centers and/or workstations (math workshop) are:
I love to give my students tangrams and let them explore spatial relationships while building patterns and recreating patterns from books like “Grandfather Tang” and “Tangramables”. If you are lucky enough to have plastic sets of tangrams you can set them up in a center with the books and let your children explore with the shapes. If you need to make your own tangrams, you can download a free pattern here. Print on card stock and cut out. You can also find some cute cards for using tangrams here.
2. Make 3D Shapes:
Head over to Teaching Ideas For Those Who Love Teaching to See step by step how to make these awesome 3D Shapes with Marshmallows and Toothpicks! Yum!
Or … If you prefer paper shapes, Math Geek Mama has Free Printables to make your own shapes!
3. Geometry Scavenger Hunt:
Kids need to get out of their seat and move around! One of your best centers can be the scavenger hunt. Place questions around the room and give your students a record sheet to use while they work. For directions to make your own, see this post: Making A Scavenger Hunt. Or to use premade, print and go resources click here: Scavenger Hunt 1, or here Scavenger Hunt 2.
4. Task Cards:
These task cards are great for starting higher level discussions with your students. Students work together to answer questions identifying, comparing and analyzing critical attributes of 2 and 3 d shapes.
Hopefully you have a few computers in your classroom you can use for a station. Here are two good websites for Geometry:
As I have mentioned in previous posts about fractions, starting with hands on and pictorial activities is vital for helping primary intermediate level students understand fractions. Today I would like to share my top 5 tips for decomposing fractions. These are mainly focused on 3rd – 5th grade, but may be helpful for some older and younger students as well.
1.) I love using my pizza game for hands on fractions! If you don’t have a pizza game, you can use plastic fraction circles or make pizza fractions from paper plates. Show your students a fraction of a pizza such as 5/6. After guided them to name the fraction, show them one way to decompose it by giving 2/6 to one student and 3/6 to another student. Point out that 2/6 + 3/6 is a way to decompose 5/6 and ask if they can name any other ways. Act out other representations such as 2/6 + 1/6 + 2/6 by giving those slices to other students. Try this with several different students.
2.) Give students color tiles or unifix cubes. Give specific directions such as make a rectangle with 3 red, 2 blue and 7 yellow. What fraction of your tiles are not yellow? (5/12) Move the red and blue apart a little to show how 5/12 can also be represented as 3/12 + 2/12. Do this with a few other fractions as well.
3.) Give students pictures of fractions and have them cut them up to show ways to decompose the fraction.
4.) Coloring Practice – Give students pictures of fractions with nothing shaded. Give them directions on what color to color different parts. Then guide them to write number sentences to decompose the fractions.
5.) Play Games! Make your own games to practice decomposing fractions or try one of the games I have available on my TpT page.
It is important for kids to be fluent with their Math facts, but sometimes the same old pencil paper routines can get boring! And, let’s face it, some kids just need to move around while they are learning! Here are a few ideas to get your kids moving while practicing Math Facts:
Measurement conversions can be quite overwhelming for some students! This is especially true if they do not understand the relationship between the different units of measurement. Notice I use the word “understand”, not the word “know”. Students can know that 1 foot is 12 inches with out really understanding how they are equal to each other. Below are suggestions for building understanding so that student can be successful with measurement conversions. Continue reading
Fractions can be a difficult subject for some students. Even students who seem to “get it” when doing simpler fraction work may become quickly confused by more complex skills such as comparing or adding fractions.
So, what can a teacher or parent do to help students develop a deeper understanding of fractions?
Start with concrete, and real world examples:
How about pizza! Yum! If you are at home you can use a real pizza to discuss how the equal parts of your pizza make a whole. For example if your pizza is cut into 8 equal slices, talk to your child about how each slice is one-eighth of the whole pizza. If you are making your own pizza you can slice it into halves first, then fourths, then eighths and discuss the pattern that you develop. As the pizza is cut into smaller pieces, there are more pieces to make the whole. In the classroom, you can use “pretend pizza” like this one from Learning Resources. Or you can have your students make their own pizzas out of paper plates. Fun!
It is very important for students to understand the meaning behind multiplication. It is also important for them to master multiplication facts so that they may apply them to other types of math. They need to know the multiples of numbers to simplify fractions, solve large division problems, see patterns, understand algebra, and so much more.
Being fluent with Math is similar to being fluent in Reading. If a student knows his sight words and only has to sound out a few unfamiliar words he is able to read a paragraph or story fluently, and comprehend it. However, if he has to sound out all of the words as he reads, the paragraph or passage will take a long time and fluency will be weaker and comprehension compromised.