Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What's Your Math Problem!?! Book Study Chapter 1

I am linking up with
Jennifer Smith-Sloane from 4mulaFun

Meg Anderson  from Fourth Grade Studio

Jamie Riggs from MissMathDork

and Jennifer Findley from Teaching to Inspire 5th Grade

for this book study on What's Your Math Problem!?!

I missed posting for Chapter 1 last week, so this post will include  my thoughts on Chapter 1 and I will post my thoughts for Chapter 2 tomorrow - then I should be back on track.

Chapter 1 - The 5 Ws and and H of Problem Solving

Gojak opens the book with a quote from Van de Walle, "Problem solving develops the belief in students that they are capable of doing mathematics and that mathematics makes sense."  I agree - it does seem that half the battle is getting past the mental blocks that students have put up against math.

What is Problem Solving?

She then discusses what problem solving is and what it isn't.  What you and I might have come to know as problem solving (think word problems at the end of a lesson in a textbook) are actually routine problems.  The kind that we really don't have to think about.  They match the lesson, so we already know what formula we are using, we just have to plug in some numbers.

Real problem solving is what we deal with in real life.  The type where we have to go beyond the procedure, the type where students do not immediately know what equation to plug the numbers into. 

Why teach Problem Solving?

Not only does the National Council of Mathematics recognize that problem solving should be "an integral part of all mathematics learning.." but, problem solving is everywhere.  We do it each and every day in almost every career.  If we want our students to be college and career ready, they need to be problem solvers.

Who should solve problems?

Short answer - EVERYONE!

When should we solve problems?

According to Gojak, problem solving should be a part of every mathematics class. EVERY?  I definitely need to work on this next year.  Did you include problem solving in every class?

How should we teach problem solving?
The author suggests beginning lessons with rich problems as a context to help students understand the context behind the mathematics for that day's lessons.

Where can you find good problems?

The million dollar question right?  A variety of resources were given including problem solving books, and websites such as Illuminations and PBS Mathline.

My main takeaway from this chapter - I need to incorporate a lot more problem solving in my lessons! 


  1. I like the idea of starting the lesson with a problem. I watched a video on teaching fractions and the teacher actually brought in a cake that she wanted to share with the class. Her questions was something along the lines of what should we do to share this fairly amongst the class. It was a great real life problem solving experience.

    Teach on a Limb

    1. I love that idea. I have seen some lessons on-line for fractions similar to the one you mentioned only they bring in 0dd numbers - such as 3 cookies to split amongst 4 students to introduce fractions. I am definitely on the hunt for more problems this summer to use next fall!


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