Monday, November 7, 2011

Thawing Out Math Brain Freeze!

Problem Solving Tips to Make Math Fun!

Students often fear math, especially problem solving, and that feeling of intimidation keeps them from being able to relax and apply their math knowledge to the task at hand. The resulting brain freeze serves to reinforce the idea that mathematics is scary and difficult. With the implementation of Common Core State Standards, students are expected to become even more proficient at solving complex problems which further contributes to the feeling of being overwhelmed in math. Here are a few strategies that will thaw their attitudes and may even motivate them to enjoy not only problem-solving but math in general!
  • Implement a problem-solving program in which students solve just one word problem a day 
  • Mix up the types of problems you present so students have to use a variety of content knowledge and skills over time
  • Keep problem solving sessions short at first - no more than 10 to 15 minutes a day - but as students start to look forward to these sessions, you can include longer problems that require more persistence
  • Refer to word problems as "puzzlers," "brain teasers," or "stumpers," and present them as fun challenges rather than dreaded math problems
  • Alternate cooperative learning strategies with independent work to add an element of fun while ensuring individual accountability
  • Allow students to use calculators during problem-solving sessions
  • Require students to show their work with pictures, symbols, or words, but don't require them to write complete sentence explanations for every problem they solve.
  • After giving students time to solve a problem, reveal the correct answer up front and then spend the remaining time asking students to share strategies. Ask, "How many different ways can we discover to solve this problem?"
I've had great success with these strategies, and when I've shared them with teachers, they have experienced similar results. They've told me that their students now look forward to their daily problem solving sessions! In the same way that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it seems that a problem a day keeps the brain freeze away!

For specific details on how to implement a daily problem-solving program in your classroom, watch the recording of my webinar, Math Problem Solving - Once a Day, the Easy Way. In this webinar I explained two different daily problem-solving systems as well as strategies for how to teach math problem solving. I also explored how math problem solving relates to the Common Core Math Standards. During the webinar, you'll learn where to download a free zip file of handouts and files related to this topic including my free Problem Solving Assessment ebook. You can view my webinar from the Math Problem Solving page on my Teaching Resources website.

One of the free files you'll receive after watching the webinar is my Problem Solving Assessment pack which can help you evaluate your students' problem-solving abilities. It includes both a pretest and a posttest on 4 different levels. Believe me, you'll learn a lot about how your students solve problems when you score their tests! If you don't have time to watch the webinar, you can download this freebie from my TeachersPayTeachers store right now.

What are some of your favorite strategies and tips for helping kids to thaw out math brain freeze and enjoy solving problems?


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  2. 3 boys collect a total of $200.30 for camp. boy A collects $12.80 more than boy B and boy C collects 3 times as much as boy B, how much each boy collect?