Saturday, March 23, 2019

Numberless word problems and bar models for Multi-Step word problems (CCSS 2.OA.1)

It's been a while since I've had the chance to blog, but I miss it so much that I'm making my return. Maybe it's the start of a new season, but I'm ready to reinvest the time in this blog again!

Let me set the stage for this lesson: Yesterday, a long-term substitute in Grade 2 asked me to come in and help her with multi-step word problems. She had taken over this class about a month ago, fresh out of graduating from college. She didn't have a clear plan of how she could teach these and also asked my assistance to find resources to support this unit. Hooray for not having a district adopted curriculum, amirite? This was a chance to sit down with a new teacher and figure out some new strategies to try in math instruction!

I thought it would be beneficial to mash two of my favorite strategies together to work through the more challenging problems; Numberless Word Problems and Bar Models.

Big shoutout to Brian Bushart (@bstockus) for the inspiration and genius that is Numberless Word Problems! Other big thanks to Greg Tang (@gregtangmath) for the idea of using a part-part-whole model (or bar model) when working through word problems!

So this is the mini-document I created to blend these two concepts together to help make sense of some of the bigger multi-step word problems that CCSS 2.OA.1 calls for. (Please feel free to make a copy and tweak for yourself!)

The students reacted very positively to the numberless word problems, even sharing, "This is impossible if we don't know what to add." Many students started inserting numbers on the first slide as a way to show me that they could solve it, which was nice to see that kind of Moxie, but really highlighted the need to use numberless word problems SLLLLOOOOOOWWWWWW students down when it comes to word problems. 

I emphasized making sense of the story. Maybe putting a visual picture or movie in their heads or drawing what they think they heard what was happening on their whiteboards. 

As the numbers were revealed, they wanted to start doing some/any kind math, but since we didn't know the full story yet, they weren't quite sure what operation to use yet. This is where the bar models or part-part-whole models came in. They could start to see what they needed to join together and what they needed to take away in order to solve the different steps or missing information.

The only regret is that I premade the part-part-whole models for the students so there is no chance that they could independently use that strategy to help them solve multi-step word problems. Next time, I'm going to try leaving it blank and drawing in the models as information is revealed, I think that will help guide them to become more independent with the strategy. 

I'm happy with this start and am excited to work with this teacher to fine-tune it some more for the students. The teacher thought these strategies worked really well and plans to use it herself, so that's always a good win when others can take something away, as I hope this blog post does for you!

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