Ask a student to make a list of what they like least about math and it’s likely that ‘story problems’ will be pretty high on that list.
So, for the past 4 years, I have made it a point to include a ‘Problem
of the Day’ in my math lesson plans. The past two years, I have shifted
more towards a ‘model-drawing’ method. I have to say I have been quite pleased with the results. I am currently using a Frank Schaffer resource titled Singapore Math: 70 Must Know Word Problems, Level 3. While Level 3 is suppose to be for 4th grade, I found it best met the needs of the 5th graders I teach. Once we finish with Level 3, we will move into the 5th grade book...Singapore Math: 70 Must Know Word Problems, Level 4.
I'm not going to lie, many of these story problems will challenge even your best math students. I decided to go with this series, after seeing some sample questions that may be on the new Common Core Math Assessments in the near future. I felt the problems in these books were a good match and an excellent way to get students comfortable with tackling even the most challenging of word problems.
I also like the fact that a detailed solution can be found at the back of the book for each problem. The focus of this series is using model drawing to visually solve a problem. I have to admit, sometimes I look at the solution and it visually works for me and other times it simply doesn't. I don't get to hung up on whether or not I am doing the model drawing correctly. I figure if the picture I create makes sense to me, than it's likely that it will for my students too.
So, how do I structure the use of this in my classroom? We start with Question 1 in the Level 3 book on the first full day of the first full week of school. I tell the students the "Problem of the Day" is something we will be doing pretty much every day of the school year (Note that there are no cheers of joy at this announcement, lol!) We do the first 10 problems, one per day, together as a class. I project the question up on the screen using my Elmo. We read it together. Record data (I on the white board, the kids on their papers.) I model how to take the information and put it into a picture. Once the picture is made, students can generally see what the first step in solving the equation is. We then solve together.
After 10 questions, I change things up a bit. Beginning with question 11, students read the information and come up with a solution on their own. After they've answered, they turn their paper in. I check the work by simply starring if correct or marking with an 'x' if it is wrong. Sometimes I do allow them to work with a 'side partner'.
The following day, I pass the papers back out and I model how to solve the previous day's question. Students use a colored pen or marker and make changes to their work if needed. Then I project the next question on the screen and students attempt on their own and then turn in. The next day we repeat the process.
In this way students are always getting a chance to try their hand at solving but also seeing how I would solve it. And, believe it or not, the students are not only becoming more and more successful with solving their problems but actually seem to be enjoying the challenge! I have also seen carryover when solving problems in our other math curriculum.
Oh, one additional thing I have started to do when reviewing the problem, is
to have the students help me write the numerical expression one could
use to solve the problem...this is only after we've already found the
correct answer. I figure since writing numerical expressions and then
evaluating them are included in our 5th grade Common Core Standards, I
may as well throw it in whenever I can, lol!
Because of the success I am having, I decided to create a recording sheet. I find that having an organized work space on paper gives students structure and actually aids their ability to solve problems. I just uploaded a copy of the template I use to my TpT Store and Teachers Notebook Shop.