Problem Solving Everyday

Problem solving is not an isolated activity. It doesn't occur every Friday. Instead problem solving is a skill that favors every mathematics lesson. Problem solving is more than just one-step word problems. Problem solving should feature risk tasks, authentic purposes, and multiple ways to be solved.

Avoiding key words
1. Key words are misleading. Some key words typically mean addition or subtraction. But not always. Consider: There were 4 jackets left on the playground on Monday and 5 jackets left on the playground on Tuesday. How many jackets were left on the playground? "Left" in this problem does not mean subtract.

2. Many problems have no key words. For example, How many legs do 7 elephants have? does not have a key word. However, any 1st grader should be able to solve the problem by thinking and drawing a picture or building a model.

3. It sends a bad message. The most important strategy when solving a problem is to make sense of the problem and to think. Key words encourage students to ignore meaning and look for a formula. Mathematics is about meaning (Van de Walle, 2012).

Common Problem Solving Structures

Common Addition and Subtraction Situations.jpg

Common Multiplication and Division Situations.jpg
See this resources for problems to match each problem solving situation


Rubric for DICE

Thank you to Grade 1 at the Roosevelt



DICE Explanation and Checklist


Thank you to Grade 4 at the Roosevelt




Math Stars

The purpose of Math Stars is to challenge students beyond the classroom setting. Good problems can inspire curiosity about number relationships and geometric properties. It is hoped that in accepting the challenge of mathematical problem solving, students, their parents, and their teachers will be led to explore new mathematical horizons. Math Stars are in sets for Grades 1-8 and include commentaries for teachers. All Math Stars Newsletters are ready for classroom use and available for downloading as PDF files.

Math Problem Solving Decks

You might consider allowing students to work with partners. Many of these problems are best solved with calculators. All of these problems lend themselves to students telling and writing about their thinking.





SuperStars III

The basic purpose of Superstars III is to provide the extra challenge that self-motivated students need in mathematics, and to do so in a structured, long-term program that does not impinge on the normal classroom routine or the time of the teacher. The system is not meant to replace any aspect of the school curriculum -- it is offered as a peripheral opportunity for students who identify with challenges and who want to be rewarded for their extra effort.