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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Math RTI Focus: Problem Solving

I'm wondering if we should focus our next Response to Intervention (RTI) math block on math problem solving using the SRSD approach. There are many reasons why I'm thinking about this including the following:
  • Math problem solving is heavily language based. Students' speed and facility with language impacts their ability to solve math problems. If students worked for six-eight weeks in similar ability math groups twice a week with teacher leadership that would give students the time and strategies they need to learn and apply problem solving skill well. This is important because reading rate, vocabulary knowledge, executive functioning, organization, and processing impact students' ability to solve problems greatly. This fact makes it difficult to teach problem solving well to large groups of diverse students at the same time with enough repetition and personal attention. 
  • The fact that most problems students are asked to solve on tests and in real time are multi-step. Some students tackle these kinds of problems with ease and organization, and others don't know where to start. Again, creating similar ability, flexible groups will help us to meet students where they are and move them forward in this regard.
  • To deepen math teaching and learning we need to spend time on the Standards of Mathematical Practice (SMPs), math vocabulary, and math talk. A problem solving focus is ideal for this, and the small groups possible with RTI provide students with the time and guidance they need to be able to share their ideas, use math vocabulary, and practice this work at a comfortable rate and just right challenge level.
If we were to agree to this approach, the first step would be to review student math data including their problem solving baseline assessment and other factors including students' reading, vocabulary, and processing abilities. 

Next, we would need to review the SRSD approach together as well as other problem solving approaches and decide what common language and strategies we would use to coach the whole grade-level and our small groups. During this time we might discuss accommodations too. I imagine we'd decide to use vocabulary charts, mnemonics, positive self talk, and the gradual release of responsibility approach to meet our goals of good teaching and student progress. 

Further, we'd need to create a problem solving website with many problems from easy, first-step problems to more complex problems. I suggest that we use the existing PARCC practice problems from 3rd, 4th, 5th and perhaps 6th grade for this. The problems are good and represent what students will have to complete during the spring standardized assessments.

I know some will think the best way to build this skill is through project/problem base learning. I agree that this matters and believe that we can further this approach through our planned STEAM activities. 

I'm wondering if any of you have focused mainly on problem solving during your RTI blocks? If so, what advice and suggestions do you have to offer? I really think this approach may help us to deepen students' confidence, ability, and interest in math. Time will tell.

Note: Using the points in this deeper learning post will serve to strengthen this approach.