First Grade Math Problem Solving

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Represent the quantities of objects in as many as three categories, using drawings or charts.

Hundred Square Puzzles: Students at Port Monmouth Road School in Keansburg, NJ, use patterns to assemble hundred board puzzles.

  See Quilt Square Challenge on the Quilts webpage for more information on this activity and to download the blocks and mats for students.

Shape Patterns: shape patterns that require students to draw what comes next.

  Student pairs used cutouts of cones and scoops to assemble then record the different combinations.

Stoplights requires students to use an orderly counting method to discover how many different stoplights can be made using a combination of red, green and yellow blocks.Heads & Tails Data Collection requires students to decide if a two coin tossing game is fair or not if one player wins if the coins match (both heads or both tails) and the other player wins if the coins do not match (one heads and one tails).Ice Cream Cones: First grade teachers at Flynn School in Perth Amboy, NJ, asked students to figure out how many different 3-scoop ice cream cones they could make make using chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice creams.It’s true, solving math word problems can be very challenging for students because they are expected to identify the type of word problem it is (join, separate, compare, etc.), determine what unknown they must solve for, AND select strategies to solve it.Even though our little darlings try to make it easy by absentmindedly adding numbers together to get the sum or subtracting one number from another to get the difference, it’s not that simple.  Students used pattern blocks to make the fish of each age, organized the data in a T-chart, then predicted what older fish would like based on the patterns they found.Pattern Problems: visual patterns that require students to draw what comes next.Let’s just say they randomly guessed at what to do. Their progress and positive attitudes warmed my heart! Just in case you are excited to give it a try but need a place to start, at the end of this post you will find a link to Free Numberless Word Problem Samples for first grade and a Lesson Outline.CLICK HERE to grab your FREE Numberless Word Problems and Lesson Outline Select a word problem from your math curriculum or write one yourself.If only we had a way to help them truly process the problem and understand what they were being asked to solve. It’s a strategy called, Numberless Word Problems…and it’s so easy to implement. In fact, a numberless word problem isn’t entirely numberless, it just starts out that way.There IS a way to significantly help your students better understand and solve story problems. When I initially heard of numberless math word problems my first thoughts were, “No way! All numbers are removed temporarily while students process what the situation is and determine what information is needed to solve the problem. So, I said a little prayer for good luck and jumped right in to using numberless word problems with my first graders.


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