Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Embedding Math SMPs into Problem Solving

Students work together to solve multi-step math problems.
It's that time of year when our attention to math problem solving is growing deeper. I am working to embed the Standards for Mathematical Practice (The SMPs) with greater detail.

Today's lesson was a good example of a first step.

First, I set the stage.
Students were seated with pencils and clipboards on the rug and at nearby desks in our class presentation space.

Next, thoughtfully prepare the materials.
After reviewing students' most recent math problem solving, I realized they needed a more structured graphic organizer to move them into better, more comprehensive problem solving work with pictures, numbers, and words.  Today's packet provided a good guide at this point in the learning.

After that, more of them, less of me.
The bean bag chairs provide cozy work areas for collaboration.
I reviewed the problem solving mnemonic with the students, then they got up one by one to demonstrate their mathematical thinking and problem solving.  They did a good job, though we have some work to do to strengthen share protocols and routines.

Finally, the students moved from the group share to partner work as they worked to solve the next problem. Later we'll share those solutions up front too.

As I move this work forward, I'll add the following steps:
1. A review of the SMPs by reciting the short poem below.  Perhaps we'll even make the poem more catchy and add some music and dance moves too:

2. I'll enlist students in a discussion related to how we can coach each other towards optimal math problem solving work.

3. The problems will become more challenging, and students will be weaned off of the graphic organizer into the standard forms used for testing first, then more real-world problem solving structures later.

4. I'll attend to the SMPs as I design the learning experiences, and add the language and objectives to our newly created weekly learning list board.

Students loved the chance to get up and share their thinking today.  The more opportunity I provide for this type of teaching/learning, the better their ability to solve complex, multi-step math problems will be.