I wanted to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite problem solving strategies. When students have difficulty with a story problem, my first advice (and always before a test!) is, “If you’re having trouble, try drawing it.” The thinking goes back to what I learned in my math methods classes: if the you have difficulty understanding an abstract concept, you may need a picture, or maybe even a model, to really understand what’s going on.
Even when students understand how to do the arithmetic in the problem, it can be really difficult for them to put together what to do with the numbers and words in front of them. Sure, they know how to multiply, but which numbers do they multiply? When they take the time to illustrate the problem, it becomes much clearer as to what’s what.
And drawing is great, but I would run into this resulting problem regularly: the students who felt comfortable with their drawing skills would take the time to work their problems out visually, while others just gave up. The solution to this? Have your students work through their problems in Buncee! With the ease of joining their own drawing with Buncee's many stickers, students can create the question onscreen to help them get through to the answer. Let’s look at a few problems and see how you could solve them in a Buncee.
Our first example is a from a second grade story problem. Here's the question:
After I’ve created the Buncee for this, I assign it to my students so they can copy it, and start working to find the answer. Here you can see how I solved it:
In the next example, you see a multistep problem involving multiplication and addition. Sometimes the arithmetic is simple for students, but the ordering of things can be tough for them to wrap their heads around. Let’s take a look at the question:
With this problem, the organization is the part that is important, so I made sure to organize my fish before I figured out the numbers. Once I have a place for everything, solving is simpler:
The last example I have came from a problem that required students to work backwards. Let’s check it out:
Here, organization is the key again. We start with the outcome, and we need to find out what the starting amount was. In a case like this, you have to begin with the ending, and do it all in reverse:
If your students enjoy creating to solve their math problems, perhaps they’ll enjoy creating their own math stories and sharing them with each other! You may also want to take the time to follow our friend Josie McKay - she posts daily problem solving Buncees that will make for a fun math challenge for your students! Here’s her Problem of the Day from November 9:
Now, go get your students started down the path of Creative Problem Solvers!
Sean Farnum is a teacher, troublemaker, the host of the #2PencilChat, and the producer of The #BestClass Podcast. He is an Education Associate at Buncee and runs the Buncee Ambassador Program. He thinks you’re pretty great.