No one really reads my blog consistently I know, but if you did, you would know that I am a HUGE fan of word problems. A professional development from years ago, Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI), literally changed the way I feel about math. Word problems are the foundation of CGI and once I was trained in CGI, my approach to teaching math completely changed.
That was over 15 years ago, and I've grown a lot as a math teacher over those years. But my love of word problems has not changed. It is the best part of my math instruction!
Word problems are a huge part of the Engage New York Modules that we use for math, but I also try to have at least a couple days a week some word problem time that is a little different from the Engage New York.
At least twice a week, I like to present one word problem to the students. It might be a type like we're working on in class, but sometimes I throw things in there that I know will challenge them because they haven't experienced it yet. We read the problem together and then students solve it. The students solve the problem however makes sense to them. Depending on what type it is, they will draw a picture, use a standard algorithm, use manipulatives- whatever they need to do to solve it. Once they've solved the problem one way, then I ask them to solve it a second way using a different strategy. This pushes their thinking out of their comfort zone and makes them think about another possible strategy for solving the problem. After some time, I choose 2 or 3 to share. When they share, I put their work under the document camera and they come to the front of the room. Sometimes I will have the student explain their strategy. Other times I will have the other students look at the solution and walk us through what that person did. We ask questions and share what we liked about the strategy. Then another person comes and shares their strategies. When I choose students to share, I do it purposely and with specific intent. Sometimes I want to show specific strategies. Other times, I want students to think about efficiency of the strategy. Other times I just want specific students to have a chance to talk and explain.
I love the depth of conversation we have when we do this! It makes students realize that math is not always about right or wrong answers. Sometimes I put incorrect solutions up for students to share, so we can talk about common misconceptions and why those misconceptions occur. But it's not an awful thing to get it wrong because we talk about all the things that were done right too.
These three are the start of a new series for me: No Prep Word Problems for each month. I have them for Kindergarten already done, but only these three (and April) for 3rd grade so far. There are between 20-25 word problems in each and they are in two forms- a full sheet and a "label" sized one you can print and cut apart for students to glue into a notebooks. I generally begin with the full-sized sheets and over the year move to the labels to save paper.