Thursday, January 12, 2012

Math Story Problems

Having been on the Math Curriculum team, rewriting the math curriculum 2 times in the past 5 years and, well, generally loving math, I'm always trying to find new exciting things to do in math and just teach better!

One thing kids struggle with over the years is solving word problems.  Well, let me rephrase that.  They are not so good at explaining why they do things when they solve problems.  It's quite difficult to tell whether they took a guess, copied their neighbor, or did it on their own.  We've done everything from exemplars to group work to the kids being teachers.  This year I came up with a new idea.  I would have a story problem packet for them to work on for the months.  This would help me achieve that goal because I would only be remembering making copies once a month, instead of daily.  The kids would get into a routine of pulling out these books at the beginning of class.  It would be done DAILY!

So, I thought about how to go about this.  The most important things with first graders (primary kiddos really) is that there needs to be space for pictures/work and a place for an answer.  Those were obvious.  That didn't get me to know what was going on in their head.  Then, one day I had one of those "aha" moments-but it was during reading.  We've been using the terms:  "First, Next, Then, Last" to retell stories and to write stories and the kids have been doing fabulous with it.  What if I add it to the page for them to solve it.  Then there is a template that they are used to, that they just need to fill in a few details that tell me whether or not they KNOW what they are doing!

I tested this during December with a Grinch Day word problem book that I created.  We did a few together and then I had them working with a partner to finish.  It worked!  AND the best part is that my students were asking for MORE! :)  I have now created a booklet for January with a Penguin theme and have already finished February with a "love" or Valentine's Day theme.

Now our routine is that when my kids come in for math (remember, we group our kids...) they pull out their booklet and start.  I should also add that I have them fairly trained on how to "attack" a word problem as well.  They first read it.  Then they search for those Key Words that tell them that they will be adding or subtracting and circle it.  Then they will underline any numbers or important information that they need to know (we're still working on that.....  it's just not as easy as looking at our chart we made to tell us whether we need to add or subtract.)


  1. I love this idea. Do you have these for sale?? I do math journals and cute thin strips each time for them to glue in their journals. It works great, but I am ALL about doing things monthly and not weekly or daily!!!
    Amy Burton

  2. I do have them available. :) I have a February one and a March one now (and a penguin one). Feb:



    I like to do things monthly too----Monday would roll around and I would be frantically copying and forgetting things, even if it were "routine." I have found that this has helped me drastically! (and has actually helped my students too! They have been doing wonderfully now! And--are actually starting to complete most on their own!) The penguin packet was a little bit easier than February and March. I've made those a little more "difficult" to match the higher standards from Core. I only started in December, so I'll have some for the beginning of the year maybe in the summer?? :)

    Thanks for all of your comments! :)

  3. Thank you! I will check them out!


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