Saturday, 12 November 2011 17:45

Math Problem Solving Menus (Part 2): Problem Solving Solution Sheet (Teaching Tip #49)

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The Teaching Tips will focus on the topic of Math Problem Solving Menus during this six-week period.

Week 1: Math Problem Solving Menus: An Introduction
Week 2: Problem Solving Solution Sheet
Week 3: Sample Problem Solving Menu
Week 4: List of Problem Solving Strategies
Week 5: Scoring Rubric
Week 6: Checking System (The Supermarket Analogy)


Problem Solving Solution Sheet

My students use a template I created when solving the math problem solving challenges I introduced last week. By proceeding through the steps of this process carefully, my students are gaining valuable practice with a wide variety of important skills.

Before I explain the different parts of the Problem Solving Solution Sheet, I want to show you what it looks like. Please feel free to use this format in your classrooms.


Name_______________________________________     Date_________________________
                                                    Problem Solving Organizer for

                                 The ______________________________________ Problem

Question: _____________________________________________________________________


Important Facts: (It may be easier to use key words and phrases than complete sentences.)

1) ___________________________________________________________________________

2) ___________________________________________________________________________

3) ___________________________________________________________________________

4) ___________________________________________________________________________

Conditions: (Special Rules) (Write N/A if there any conditions in this problem.)

1) ___________________________________________________________________________

2) ___________________________________________________________________________

3) ___________________________________________________________________________

Choose a Strategy: (Write the name of your strategy and show all your work in this space.)

Solution (labeled): ______________________________________________________________

Is your solution reasonable? (Be sure to check your work carefully.)        Yes        No


Once the students write their name, the date, and the title of the question they are working on, they begin to complete the steps of this organizer sheet. The first task students need to accomplish in any problem solving situation is to identify the question they are being asked to answer. I recommend to my students that they simply copy the question as it is written on the menu, unless there is a good reason to change the wording.

Next, students must identify the information needed to solve the problem. In many ways identifying these important facts is as much a reading comprehension exercise as it is a mathematical one. Differentiating the important from the extraneous can be difficult for many children, and asking them to list the important facts helps them focus on this critical skill.

If there are any conditions in the problem, students list them in step 3. If not, they simply write “N/A.” Conditions are special rules that impose limits or constraints on the problem solver. For example, imagine three girls are buying frozen yogurt, and the three available flavors are vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. If Grace is allergic to fruits with seeds, she can’t have strawberry. That piece of information is a condition, and students need to write it in the proper spot on the paper.

The majority of the work occurs in step 4, when students must choose an appropriate strategy and show all the work that leads to a solution. In this step children are free to try any strategy that makes sense to them. The strategies may feature pictures, arithmetic operations, logical reasoning, or something else.

When students arrive at an answer, they write it in the “Solution” area. I do not accept a paper as finished until the solution is labeled. If, for example, the students are asked to determine how many passengers are on a train, their answer can’t simply be “125.” It must be “125 people.” Holding students accountable in this manner promotes paying attention to detail.

Finally, before students conclude their work, I ask them to go back to check to see if their answer is reasonable. In other words, I want them to ensure that it makes sense given the context of the problem. Students circle the word “yes” once they have checked their work. This checking step promotes thoroughness and conceptual understanding.

Next week I will share with you one of the nine problem solving menus my third graders use in class. Once you see it, the steps included on this problem solving organizer should become even clearer.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.