Here comes another math journey: our Wednesday Word Problem (if you find a better name than WedWoPro, I am game to change it for yours !).
Last Fall, my first grader and I had fun exploring the concept of Fractions a way that made sense to her (see Time 4 Fractions here). I will keep providing her with word problems on fractions but I would like to go a step further from now on: exploring regularly word problems, including multi-step problems, involving all 4 operations. And every Wednesday, I will share the word problem, and my experience with you. Hope you join us !
It is really while pursuing my Master in Math Elementary Education and reading about Cognitively Guided Instruction (Carpenter et al, 2014) that I realize how much children can benefit from exploring math concepts on their own even before receiving a formal math instruction. Indeed, preschoolers can solve division problems, not through an equation, of course, but through modeling the problem with manipulative (“one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me”). And the more they get a chance to explore intuitively a math concept, the stronger their understanding will be when it is time to learn the math symbols associated to it. So as a parent, I like to provide my kids with additional opportunities at home to build up these foundations, away from peer pressure and time pressure. That’s what “Time 4 Fractions” was about. And so is this new journey. As a kid, solving word problems was, by far, my favorite math homework. Seeking for relevant information, and come up with a plan! I thought it was so much more interesting than just solving a worksheet of equations. I hope my children feel the same way. If not now, soon enough.
So… here comes Problem #1. I know ! I know ! I am using small numbers this week, with 2 sub-questions. I just wanted to check how my child would approach the problem (Would she be overwhelmed with the reading? Would she find the information she needed? etc) . Kind of what I did last Summer with word problem. Reviewing the method before strengthening counting skills. Starting next week, I will differentiate the problem into 3 levels of difficulties.
WedWoPro #1 – In the woods
Rosie was walking in the woods. She saw 3 squirrels and 2 cardinals. Then, she saw 5 more squirrels.
How many squirrels did she see?
She wanted to give 2 acorns to each squirrel.
How many acorns did she need?
Here is the .pdf if you want to print it out (WedWoPro#1).
As with Time 4 Fractions, I just invited my child to solve the word problem as she wanted, using manipulatives of her choice (Legos or buttons are always a big hit), drawing the situation, and/or writing an equation. Sometimes I read the problem, sometimes she does, either way is fine. You pick ! Sometimes, I help her start with a few questions, such as “Tell me about the problem” or “What are the questions you need to answer ? ” or “How could you figure out the first question? How could you represent or model the problem to help you solve it ?”.
There are several aspects of observing my child solving peacefully word problems at home that I truly enjoy. I hope you do to.
- Obviously, it helps me check that she uses what she had learned at School meaningfully. Indeed, it was the first time that I saw her using a 10 frame, so I raised my favorite question “Tell me about what you are doing”. Also, I noticed that she could explain quite well her additions (“3” comes from the text “3 squirrels”, I am using “+” because I am adding, etc), but she is not quite there yet with explaining the multiplication equation -and that’s OK :-) It is just something I am going to keep an eye on.
- Also, I think it is fun to see children notice something on their own. For instance, my child started drawing a real squirrel at first, but quickly realized that “it is going to take me forever” and switched to a more mathematical way to represent the squirrels. How easy then to engage a discussion on the purpose of math symbols.
- Most of all, I enjoy our time together: it is not a homework, there is no stress, no pressure, just an activity to share together.
One more thing, I thought I should share something new I am trying to keep her motivated. I told her that I had written a “magic number” on a card, and she could discover it from her answers: question 1 leading to an answer of 8 squirrels and question 2 to 16 nuts, the magic number would be 816. You may want to give it a try !
Until next time ! Since it is a new journey, comments and feedbacks are even more appreciated !!!
- Carpenter, T., Fennema, E., Franke, M., Levi, L. and Empson S. (2014). Children’s Mathematics, Second Edition: Cognitively Guided Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. ISBN-13:978-0325052878.