Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Problem with Problems

This has been a week of problem solving - at school and in my life in general. My computer had a seizure, I forgot my bank passwords and locked myself out of everything, spent ages dealing with government red tape... problems, problems!

At 8.45 today, after 13 out of 16 children handed in their Problem of the Day with identically incorrect answers I decided we had a problem with problems!

Pencils down. Everybody freeze. Look at me. Listen to me.

READ THE QUESTION before you start circling numbers and highlighting key phrases.

Blah, blah, blah - I could see their eyes glazing over and it wasn't even 9.00 yet.

After a brief - and fruitless - lecture, I decided we had to go right back to the beginning so I re-arranged my planned centers and made one of them a problem-solving workshop.

We took it slowly, step by step, asking lots of questions:

What are you trying to find out?
What are the facts you know?
How do these facts connect?
What key words can you find to help you?
Draw a picture.
What number sentences will you write?
Why did you choose that particular operation?
Explain your thinking.

That last one was the tricky part :)

I have to say that by the end of the lesson I was in DESPAIR!!

I know that this is developmental and some children take time to learn problem solving skills but when one of my high flyers sat there with 24 sparkly gems in front of her and COULDN'T write a number sentence to show 24 - 16 = 8 I seriously began to question my ability to teach!!

When she told me that she thought 24 divided by 16 was 8,  I almost cried.
She got the answer eventually but it was hard going.

So, more problem solving tomorrow but... it's fairy tale time :) Open-ended project coming up!

In my kitchen right now are sausage rolls for the Big Bad Wolf, honey graham crackers for the Three Bears and apple tarts for Snow White - just to name a few items :)

Problem solving CAN be fun!! :) Check back later to see some photos :)


  1. Oh boy! Problem solving.....is a problem!

  2. When my students all had the same answers, I asked who's brain was tired doing the thinking for the entire group. Sheepish downcast looks and one confused person- BINGO! I hate that glazed-eye look. Nice recovery! If you haven't already downloaded them, pick up my freebie "Become a Math Lawyer, Defend Your Answer" poster set. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Become-A-Math-Lawyer-Defend-Your-Answer-poster-labels
    Have a lovely weekend, Lynn!
    Desktop Learning Adventures

    1. I know what you mean - I know exactly which kiddies have roaming eyeballs :) I'll definitely head over and collect the posters! Yesterday I asked every single child to explain their thinking to me - why they chose to do what they did - and boy, did I hear some moaning. (I don't know why because I do this all the time with them - I think the approach of national exams is getting everyone on edge!) Two wonderful children managed to explain their thinking clearly enough that the whole class got it :) so I am feeling a lot better now.
      Hope you enjoy your weekend too!