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Monday, March 29, 2010

Crunchy Time

3rd grade math TAKS test is on April 27th. That doesn't leave us with too much time left.

Aside from kids still struggling with the concepts, we have at least covered a lot of the material. Operations, patterns, rounding, measurement, fractions, geometry, etc.

The past few weeks and the next few weeks have been and will be over tougher stuff: The Word Problems.

Most word problems follow some sort of logical path. Most 3rd graders do not. So while it might make perfect sense that if somebody gives away 5 pencils, they should then have LESS pencils than they started with... prompting subtraction...that's not always the way it works out.

Last week, we focused on Two-Step Word Problems. Talk about your basic whipping. There are THREE numbers in the problem now?? We HAVE to add/subtract them all at the same time!!

Usually, when we walk through a problem together, logic prevails. The kids, even the low ones, can tell me when they should add, when they should subtract. The problem arises when the kids face the questions on their own. The main problem being that many of the kids don't actually read the problem or think about what the words mean.

Remember that Far Side cartoon captioned, "What dogs hear?" where the owner said, "Spot, fetch my slippers! Good boy, Spot, that's a good boy, Spot!" and the dog hears, "Spot, blah blah blah blah blah blah, Spot, blah blah blah blah Spot!"

Word problems act in much the same way for a lot of kids.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah 15 blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah 3 blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah?

Ooooooh, I spy, with my tiny little eye, two numbers!! The magic 8 ball in my head says to.... ADD them!

Then the teacher, ME, reads their answer and wonders why the heck each friend has 18 hotdogs, if Alex started with 15 hotdogs and split them up evenly among 3 friends. (Nevermind the fact that they added hotdogs and friends and magically turned them all to hotdogs.)

We start "Reasonableness"-type questions tomorrow. A bit too unreasonable, if you ask me.


Katie said...

more power to you

Persepolis said...

I was subbing in a third grade classroom last week and we encountered a three step problem involving 22 legs, 7 people and x number of dogs on a TAKS worksheet. I had to remind the kids in the class several times that people have 2 legs, and dogs have 4. They were amazed when I said that sometimes math problems make you use common sense to solve problems.

TeacherFromTN said...

Ohhh...we had one that was hard a few weeks ago on our Algebra unit test. It had to do with teams competing in a three-legged race, and how many legs, and then how many individuals. I thought their poor little heads would explode. Most of them had never even heard of a three-legged race (since they are unsafe, you know!), let alone figuring out that each team of two only has three legs! We finally used the strategy called "draw stick figures" to solve!

Mister Teacher said...

I was just talking with someone the other day about how odd (and awful) it is that kids just don't want to draw pictures to help them solve problems.