Sunday, January 13, 2013

Problem Solving Made Easy

There's a famous Gary Larson cartoon called Math Phobic's Nightmare where you arrive at the pearly gates and you can't get in without answering a math word problem.  Talk about pressure!  Students struggle with problem solving and teachers struggle teaching problem solving.  The challenge is to read a problem and identify statements that express relationships between quantities and to choose an operation.  There are many problem solving strategies including: the Key Word Strategy, the UPScheck (Understand, Plan, Solve, Check) strategy and the Bar Model Strategy.  I'd like to share some resources for the Bar Model Strategy. 
Before the holidays, I had the opportunity to attend a trainer-of-trainers workshop for Singapore Math.  For over 15 years, I facilitated hands-on math and science workshops as a national consultant with AIMS Education Foundation so I was very comfortable with the delivery of the math concepts. But what intrigued me the most was Singapore Math's take on the Bar Model Strategy.  It motivated me to do more research on the Bar Model Strategy.   If you want a fun introduction to using unit bars to solve problems, go to...
Scroll down to student projects and click on How to Use Unit Bars and you will see Mrs. Aker's and Mrs. Wojenski's second grade Bearkat Brainiacs explain how to solve problems with unit bars.  This is a delightful prodigy produced podcast.   I should know because I have watched it at least 10 times!  I have been using the bar model/unit bar strategy with the second grade that I work with and they love it.  It seems to come very naturally to them.  We have just started to work on constructing a response to a problem.  As we continue our journey with problem solving and other Singapore math strategies, I will share with you. 
Let's get to the resources.  This weekend I was preparing to facilitate a session on problem solving for a SIP day this week.  I decided to create a bulletin board on the four-step problem solving process that utilizes unit bars.  I also created a graphic organizer for the students to complete during whole-class instruction or to use independently as scaffolding when writing a constructed response in math. 

Click on the photo below to download a copy of the large four-step process for problem solving.  The graphic organizer can be downloaded here. The clipart is available from and you can view it on  Pinterest.  Finally, the Common Situations for Addition and Subtraction posters can be found at my TPT store.  I would use this portable science board at a math center or station.  It can also serve as a portable bulletin board.  The clipart made it fun to design. 
Click here to download a copy of the large four-step process for problem solving.

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