In math class, we often see students pull numbers out of math problems and operate on them without thinking about the context. Many students arrive at an answer, but don't realize their answer doesn’t make sense within the context of the problem.
When this happens, we're left wondering many things that are extremely important in our future planning:
- Are they struggling with the math?
- Are they struggling with comprehension of the text?
- Are they making sense of the problem as mentioned in SMP1?
After reading Brian Bushart's blog post, I've found that taking the numbers and questions out of the problem itself engages students in making sense of contexts. Students are then able to notice and wonder about the context without the worry of having to solve for something.
Working with teachers, it can be as simple as adapting the curriculum you have. There's no digging around to find extra things; we use what we have and make some small changes.
Here are four easy steps I took in using a numberless word problem in a first grade classroom:
Step 1: I took this original problem from our curriculum:
Step 2: I removed the numbers and simply gave the students a sentence:
"A school bus picked up students at three stops on the way to school."
Step 3: I asked the students what they noticed and wondered (believe it or not they were able to notice and wonder all of the things the original question would be asking).
Step 4: I asked them to choose the numbers they would put in the problem to find the number of students on the bus.