Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part Two

Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part Two

Dinnertime is a place stories are told at my house. One of my favorite storytellers is my husband Matt. When he tells a story, you feel like you are there. Stories are memorable, they can take us to another world, and for mathematics, stories bring context to the abstract. Our world is full of exciting patterns and problems to solve, but our students don’t see the math.

photo-61I have heard for years how difficult word problems are for children to understand. Now I know sometimes that is because their reading level may be below grade level, but we need to work around that. Defeat is boring, and we are more creative than that! We are teachers! Stories engage us, so lets use them to lower the affective filter in our students and make them engage with word problems, maybe even write their own. Writing, reading, and doing math… we would be integrating curriculum. (WOW, I love when I get more for my money!)

Here are the four scenes for Decomposing/Composing. You can click here to learn more about this addition and subtraction situation. I have used color to distinguish sets of pencils and flowers. I just printed them on two different colors of card stock.

Bees Decomposing:Composing     Insects

Pencils Decomposing:Composing     Pencils

Flowers Decomposing:Composing    Flowers

Crabs Decomposing:Composing      Crabs

In my previous post on making word problems more engaging, I used the same names as I do in this post. One of the reasons I used the same names and just changed the situations was so that students that struggled with reading could memorize it. When I sat at a table working with kindergarteners, I was amazed how quickly they memorized the sentence frames for the activity!

Each story gives students an analogy (structure) that eventually will connect to other analogies and create an understanding of how stories are represented in the different situations for addition and subtraction. In other words, as students hear the different addition and subtraction situations, they will see the common language in the situations and be able to slowly change names and situations and build their own word problems.

Children love to use their imaginations! Let’s harness their imaginations, so that they can learn addition and subtraction too! So invite the four characters Trevon, Maya, Bobby, and Jada to be a part of your classrooms and tell some math stories.

How have you harnessed a child’s imagination to teach word problems?

5 Responses to Making Word Problems More Engaging, Part Two

    • Your welcome. I have to give credit to my kids for the inspiration to bring imagination into math. I am personally not the most imaginative person, but my kids love to use their imagination. After coaching for over a decade, I have learned that we all come at things with different lens. We want our students to be thinkers, but often don’t give them the outlet to do it. I am always looking for ways to engage a larger audience in math. Too many people have a negative disposition towards the subject. I think the writers and creative students would be fantastic at writing word problems, if we give them the tools to be successful.

    • Thanks. Word problems can be really challenging for students. If we equip students with the tools, I have seen them be successful!

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