1. Choose the work of two children and compare their answers to word problems. Describe the problem, and elaborate on the thinking strategies that the child used to solve it. What might you do as a follow-up lesson for this particular child?
2. Now, you are an elementary school teacher and a colleague asks why you are spending so much instructional time having children solve word problems rather than drilling them on basic facts. How will you respond (please use evidence from our conversations in class and readings of chapters 7 and 8 in your math textbook!).
1. Mrs. Cook recently took math work home for grading however she allowed me to copy a few worksheets and assist the students complete the problems.
Jassiellyz was quick to read the problem and realized immediately that she had to break it down. She understood that she had to add 29 and 42. She appropriately set up the problem, understanding that 9 plus 2 was 11 and she had to carry over the 1. However, in her final addition steps, she failed to add the carried over 1 and only added the 4 and the 2 getting a final answer of 61. I asked her if she saw anything wrong with the problem and she replied no.
Anthony preferred reading the problem and completing it on his own. He insisted on drawing out the 29 and 42 with base ten block lines and single cubes. After he drew out the numbers he added up his total by pointing to each sketch and counting in his head. He came up with the appropriate answer of 71 without any help.
To follow up with Jassiellyz I would supply her with a similar problem, perhaps one such as: There were 18 students in the lunch room. Then 24 more students entered the lunchroom. How many students are there now? Jassiellyz would also have to carry over in this problem, however this time I would guide her to ensure that she paid attention to the carried over 1. I’m confident that if I were to have pointed out what she did instead of just asking if she saw anything wrong, she would have immediately realized what she did since these problems are routine for the class.
To follow up with Anthony, since the problem was errorless and easy for him, I would push him to start writing out the numbers like Jassiellyz did to solve her problem. Anthony clearly understands how to do word problems with the use of manipulatives, concluding that he is ready to move on to more advanced procedures.
2. Word problems are an important aspect of children’s development throughout their educational career. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NTCM), “Problem solving means engaging in a task for which the solution method is not known in advance.” The purpose of a word problem is not only to prepare children for real life, but to develop children’s logical and abstract thinking and mental discipline. Drilling may seem like a simple solution to getting children to memorize algorithms, however through word problems students are able to make choices and determine the specific operation that is required. Through these steps students also begin to use mathematical terminology. By allowing students to apply, analyze, and evaluate word problems they are able to successfully learn on their own terms and in their own specific ways. Word problems also allow students to improve their reading and comprehension as well. Teachers can easily integrate other subject areas into their word problems, such as science or music.