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The Problem with Problem Solving

Recently, I have noticed a huge up swing in purchases of my problem solving products.  It dawned on me that maybe everyone else is struggling with teaching problem solving too so I decided to do a series of posts of problem solving.  I will look at WHY it’s difficult and what you can do to  help your kids understand.

I have taught for 13 years, all at the same school, in multiple grades.  After years of struggles and thoughts, I’ve realized some of them just don’t understand what they are supposed to do.  My students tend to see 2 numbers in a problem, add them up and say that’s the answer.  It’s not just happening in my classroom- it’s all over my school and there is a good chance that it’s all over YOUR school too.

To combat that problem, I have thrown out everything and started at the beginning.  I’m done with key words.  I’m not focusing on any special acronym.

I’m getting in the way back machine and taking it all the way back.

What am I doing?

We are acting problems out!

I currently teach 2nd grade so the numbers can be a bit daunting, but it’s ok.  We started with basic, 1 digit numbers to teach students how to understand problems.

Acting out the problems is engaging kids on the concrete playing field.  This allows students to then analyze their actions and make decisions about addition and subtraction.  Here are the steps we follow!

Step 1- Read the problem.  A time or two!
Step 2- Get up and move.  Act out the problem.
Step 3- Draw a picture of what happened.  Did you give 4 pencils to your friend?  Draw it!
Step 4- Write the equation, including a symbol for the unknown.
Step 5- Check your work for accuracy!

So far, it’s working pretty well.  Now that we are heading in to the new year, most of my students have made the leap from concrete to abstract and are able to solve word problems with larger numbers.

I have several word problem products that we have been using for practice but the Pet Store Problem Solving has been  one of their favorites!  You can find it here!

The Problem with Problem Solving

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