KinderGals: Easy Steps to Solve Story Problems

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Easy Steps to Solve Story Problems

Story problems are used across the grade levels to teach many math concepts.  How can we go to a deeper level of understanding? How can we make them more challenging and stay with the grade level standard? This post shares how Megan and I use Bloom's Taxonomy to help us do that.

Bloom's Taxonomy
A.  Kim caught some butterflies in a net. Some were red and some were yellow? What did Kim catch?
B. Kim caught some butterflies in a net. She caught 3 red butterflies and 3 yellow butterflies. What did Kim catch?
Which do you think is a more challenging story problem? A is more challenging. Why? In the A problem, the children are working at the synthesis or create level of Bloom's taxonomy. Here the children have to create an equation to plug into the story problem. In the B problem, the children are working at the application level of  Bloom's taxonomy. They have to apply what they know about operations to the story problem to make the number sentence.  Create is a higher level than Application.

Here is a story problem that we used with Megan's kids last week. She gave them each an index card to glue their butterflies on. Then, they used the recording sheet to share their thinking through pictures and words.
Want to make it even more challenging? Here's how...provide a story problem where the children create the problem, like above. BUT, add the sum. Then, the children need to create a story problem that equals the given sum.
Conceptual, Pictorial or Abstract
Another way to think about story problems--Are the children working at the conceptual, pictorial, or abstract level of understanding.  ALL math learning, regardless of grade level, should occur at the conceptual level. Working at this level ensures that children develop a deep understanding of the mathematical concept.
Conceptual means manipulate. When children can move, or manipulate 3D or 2D objects, they are working at the conceptual level. Here the children are manipulating plastic teeth to solve the problem.
How about this one? Is it conceptual. Often, teachers think it is pictorial, because they see pictures of cows and pigs. However, these are 2D representations of the real object that kids can manipulate. Clip art, small dye cut outs, erasers, or real objects are all at the conceptual level. 
In this story problem the kids are sharing cookies. I bought some of the cookie cereal. This is the easiest, when kids use the "real" objects.
But this is conceptual understanding as well. Here the kids are using 2D versions of the cookies to solve the problem. Just remember, using the 3D is the easiest way for kids to develop true, deeper level understanding.
Where is the transition to pictorial level? This is where we either ask kids to draw a picture to show their understanding or we ask them to solve a problem by looking at a picture. In this problem, the kids are drawing pictures to show their understanding, this is the pictorial level.
Are you looking for some story problems? Here is a resource, Solve it! Bundle,  to find these, and other, problems.
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Mrs. Anderson said...

I guess we all need to evaluate our practices and methods to make sure we are making the most of our time. Thanks for sharing!

foolishme03 said...

DISLIKE (TOTALLY) Type A problems (Tee-Hee!!) I can see the "benefits" and AFTER doing many, many problems like that - I would "imagine" they would get the "hang" of it. I REALLY think a small percentage of my First Graders WOULD actually be able to "put together a problem . . .?!?!?!?" I'm going to do a "field test" for you and let you know the results!!!! ;) ~ Lauren Ayers

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