The school year is off to a roaring start, and this is the year that I figure out how to teach problem solving strategies (and continue making students show their problem solving strategies). Problem solving strategies are pivotal to word problems. In word problems, there are so many words that need decoding, extra information, and opportunities for students to solve for something that the question is not asking for.
Math Problem Solving Strategies
C.U.B.E.S stands for circle the important numbers, underline the question, box the words that are keywords, eliminate extra information, and solve by showing work.
Why I like it: It gives students a very specific “what to do.”
Why I don’t like it: With all of the annotating of the problem, I’m not sure that students are actually reading the problem. None of the steps emphasize reading the problem but maybe that is a given.
R.U.N.S stands for read the problem, underline the question, name the problem type, and write a strategy sentence.
Why I like it: Students are forced to think about what type of problem it is (factoring, division, etc) and then come up with a plan to solve it using a strategy sentence. This is a great strategy to teach when you are tackling various types of problems.
Why I don’t like it: Though I love the opportunity for students to write in math, writing a strategy statement for every problem can eat up a lot of time.
U.P.S. Check stands for understand, plan, solve, and check.
Why I like it: I love that there is a check step in this strategy. Students having to defend the reasonableness of their answer is essential for students’ number sense.
Why I don’t like it: It can be a little vague and doesn’t give concrete “what to dos.” Checking that students completed the “understand” step can be hard to see.
What I’m doing…
Here is the strategy that I am adopting this year. It doesn’t have a name yet, or an acronym, (so can it even be considered a strategy…?) but I will have the steps on an anchor chart in my room. See below.
- I Know: This will help students find the important information.
- I Need to Know: This will force students to reread the question and write down what they are trying to solve for.
- Plan and Work: Here is where students take their knows/need to knows and get to work.
- My Solution: This is where students will ask themselves if the answer is reasonable and whether it answered the question.
I have rolled this out to students, and it went decently. When I provided the boxes (seen below) for them to fill out, I received no heavy sighs that I was forcing them to show their work. #mathteacherwin
Here is where I typically struggle with problem solving strategies: 1) modeling the strategy in my own teaching weeks after I have taught students to use the strategy and 2) enforcing students to do it. So…basically everything. This might be why I haven’t been able to stick with a strategy from year to year.
Students who plan succeed at a higher rate than students who do not plan. Do you have a go to problem solving strategies that you teach your students? Any ideas on what I should name my new strategy?