My students have always struggled with word problems and even the students who get "the answer" have a very hard time explaining their work.
On Friday we tried two things that really seemed to help students with these problems. I am planning to do this all next week as we prepare for the PARCC test the first week of March.
The first thing was a strategy that was shared by Brian Stockus during the awesome #elemmathchat on Thursday night. It is called Numberless Word Problems and you can read more about it on Brian's blog here.
This fit perfectly with the KWI strategy I've been teaching all year. The K (what you know) and the W (what is the question you are answering) have been really easy for my students to pick out, the I (ideas for solving) is where they always get stuck. However, once we took the numbers out of the problem it became a piece of cake! It was fun to see their ah-ha's when they realized what they were supposed to be doing with that I, and how it really does help them solve the problem.
The 2nd thing that helped was the actual PARCC test itself. Since the test is done on the computer when students are asked to show or explain their work, they can't just scratch out some arithmetic like they usually do and circle the answer. What I did was after they used the KWI and numberless word problem strategy to solve the problem, I gave them ipads and told them they now needed to write up their solution on a google doc and share it with me. It worked great! The responses weren't wonderful but they definitely were writing much more than they normally would and the best part was the mathematical conversations they were having about it while they were figuring out how to write the solutions. For the next class, I am going to print out their solutions, without names, along with the scoring rubric for the problem and they are going to score them. I can't wait!
I absolutely love when I can see immediate results from trying a new strategy. Its so encouraging and gets me totally energized. I love when I reflect back and realize this is what my students should be doing everyday. This is what I want my classroom to look like. Sometimes its hard to figure out how to make this happen more often. One thing that comes to mind is my video lessons and their notebooks. These are where they will learn the "tools of math" the skills, procedures formulas etc. and then in class should be all about application of the tools.
When I reflect back on what I just wrote I'm thinking to myself "duh" isn't that why you started to flip your class in the first place! Oh well, precisely the reason I am blogging!! Reflection and journaling are an absolute must and I have to get in the habit of doing more of it!