Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weekly Problem Solving Journals

Several weeks ago we had a team planning meeting to plan for our math instructional unit.  Our first instructional unit in math is multiplication and division with the factors 2,3,4,5 and 10.  I always feel so much pressure teaching this unit because it such an important concept for students and I want to make sure I do the very best job teaching it as possible.  

One of the things that we wanted to make sure that we give our students plenty of exposure to is using their new found multiplication and division skills to solve problems.  Over the years, I have tried many different approaches to problem solving in my classroom.  I have typed problems on a power point and had students solve them in their math notebook.  I have typed problems on address labels and put them on pages of their math notebooks.  

These methods all worked just fine and students were able to get sufficient practice.  The one downside that bothered me was the fact that our math notebooks stayed at school and parents were never able to see the problems that students were being asked to solve.

The idea for Weekly Problem Solving Journals was born and our problem was solved (like my little play on words!). 

The idea was to take one type of problem and work on it for a week.  Students would get a week's worth of practice and we would be able to scaffold the instruction and practice of those problems.  We use the Weekly Problem Solving Journal as our math bellwork each day.  It takes between 5 and 10 minutes.

On Monday we look at the problem together and I model how I think through the problem.  We highlight important information and then we discuss different strategies we could use to solve it.  I model my thinking as I solve the problem step by step and then how to prove that my answer is correct.

Tuesdays we try a similar problem.  I still provide some guidance.  We do some table talk discussions with peers and solve and prove our solution.

Wednesdays are my students' favorite day, it's "Work With a Partner Wednesday."  This allows them to have some support as they discuss the problem and work through it together.  As I'm walking around and checking in with each group, I also look for different ways that groups solved the problem or proved it and I have them share under the document camera with the class.

Thursday students try it themselves.  I give them some quiet thinking time and they work through it. As they are working, I walk around the room and help those who get stuck by questioning them and coaching them through it.  After our quiet time, we check the answer together.

Friday is our independent practice day.  I always tell my class that it's like going to the doctor for a check up.  I just need to check to make sure they are growing and learning.  The last page of the journal is a review problem.  When they have completed the last two pages of the journal they turn it in.

We've been using the journal for about a month now and I have seen a huge improvement in my students problem solving skills.  I love that the routine is consistent from week to week and that it allows me to provide targeted instruction on problem solving without taking up too much time!

My Weekly Problem Solving Journals are available as a growing bundle in my store!  This means that you can grab them now at a reduced price and redownload the file as new journals are added!!!  When the bundle is complete it will contain 25-30 journals and will cost over $50!  You can grab it now for just $8.50.  The price will increase as each week is added, so grab it now for the best deal!!!

The bundle also includes an editable version of the Weekly Problem Solving Journal so that you can create your own problems!

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