Hi there teacher friends,
If you are like me, you fret about every single minute of instructional time, and how to best take advantage of the precious time that you have with your students every day.
When I was the math representative for my grade level I had to attend many workshops on integrating standards, designing my math block and so forth. By the end of every single session I was left with one must-do, non-negotiable, thing:
“Problem solving needed to happen daily in my classroom.”
The pressure of “one more thing to do”, “the more you know – the more you do” kind of thing is not fun at all. Specially because I was already using every minute to do all the things to be able to fit the curriculum, while enhancing high order cognitive skills.
I know you feel me.
The idea of teaching mathematics through problem solving is one that had always resonated with me though. So I started reflecting and doing some deep research about the reasoning behind solving word problems daily, not only because of the things that were preached at workshops, but also because I truly saw my students struggle with word problem concepts year after year.
WHY IS PROBLEM OF THE DAY IMPORTANT?
Let’s begin by stating the facts: some teachers don’t call “problem of the day” problem of the day. Some call it math warm-ups, or math stretches, or calendar time, etc. The bottom line is that in one way or another we should be doing problems solving constantly. But why is it important?
A section of the instructional day should target word problems for many reasons:
- We need to provide our students with similar tasks and class discussions to help them see patterns and make generalizations about different math concepts.
- They need to gain experience in using highly focused tasks that will *force* them to dig deeper in their thinking.
- The more students practice problem solving strategies, the more they will have chances to develop relational thinking and understanding. BINGO!! 👍
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF DOING PROBLEM OF THE DAY?
It is no secret that solving word problems is one of the most challenging things that students face even in Kindergarten. This is specially true if our students come to school without a variety of math experiences and language. Year after year, I plan a different approach to my word problem of the day activities and routines. I focus on what my students know and are able to do.
Let me rephrase that: I focus on my students’ needs in order to develop the actual word problem activities.
These are my main goals with my word problem of the days section:
- Focus on my students ideas and invented strategies about word problems.
- Enhance their sense making abilities
- Move them away from guessing and blurting out answers without any effort of understating first.
- Develop their confidence and avoid any beginnings of math anxiety
- Provide them with the time to become familiar with math manipulative and tools
- To provide descriptive feedback
- Cultivate a supportive community for learning
- To create a fun and engaging way for my students to communicate and learn from each other.
HOW DO I FIT THE PROBLEM OF THE DAY ROUTINES?
OMG… but how am I going to fit one more thing into my already loaded schedule? I understand if your district mandates your schedule, or if you have a school-wide schedule that you can’t touch… but if your administration is as cool as mine, you can be flexible with some instructional things here and there.
This being said, your morning routine sets the tone for the day. As a result, I like to provide my students with a morning menu that gives them the following choices:
- Read to self
- Work on unfinished literacy or BUILD math stations
- Problem of the Day
- STEM or STEAM Mats
Each morning, my students make one choice… it doesn’t matter what the choice is, as long as they visit each morning menu choice once a week. These morning menu options stay put all year long.
During our math block, we ALWAYS visit our problem of the day at the very beginning of our mini-lesson time. Those students who have worked on the problem of the day during the morning menu, are the experts. And the rest of the students have ample time to observe other students model strategies and ask question.
EVERYONE GETS A CHANCE TO BE IMMERSE IN PROBLEM SOLVING.
My students also have plenty of opportunity to work on word problems when they are completing their BUILD math centers independently. Since the D (Doing Math) station targets addition and subtraction word problems as well.
See? Not so hard to fit your problem of the day in!
Please know that there is a LOT of prep work in terms of procedures and problem-solving strategies that I do before I release my students to do problem of the day independently.
PROBLEM OF THE DAY AREA
You have to set the stage to engage! Do you have a corner, or table, or counter, or area of your classroom set up for the problem of the day? Normally you want to leave the word problem up for students to read and solve together while using math manipulatives and tools for them to use with minimal supervision.
The way that you arrange your problem of the day area will affect your students learning. These are some tips to set your problem of the day corner:
- Make small whiteboards with dry-erase markers available for students to work out the word problems.
- Organize and label math manipulatives and make them accessible.
- Hang anchor charts and other reference materials with problem solving strategies within a close distance. Students will use these classroom created materials when problem solving.
CHOOSING WORD PROBLEMS
For my most emergent readers, I use QR codes in which I record my self reading the word problems first, so that they can read along with me.
Normally I choose a word problem type that has been taught in the past… and I am REALLY careful as to not to repeat the same type of word problem two days in a row.
Believe me. It has happened once. OK maybe twice. 😂
Regardless of the type of word problem, I always provide a chance for my students to reflect on and discuss their work. I want them to show me their thinking about the problem, the processes they used to solve it, their solutions, what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. I also have them explain their answers whether they are correct or incorrect.
How about you?
Do you have a problem of the day routine? Leave me a comment (or two) I would LOVE to hear all about it!
Did you L-O-V-E this post? Then pin the heck out of it here 👇👇👇