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"Everyone’s Got (Word) Problems" Grades 6th to 9th

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BIlly Edward Bush B.A, M.Ed.
Average rating:4.8Number of reviews:(458)
This lesson uses the four modalities of reading (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) on a math word problem to bridge the gap between reading and math.

Class experience

US Grade 6 - 8
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
Listed below are some of the questions that you may ask during this lesson. The questions you ask will depend on the students' responses. The teacher's focus in this part of the lesson is to have students try and picture the problem in their head and make sense of what is happening in this problem. Your students will come up with a variety of answers. Some example questions you could ask include:

Here are the seven strategies I use to help students solve word problems.

1. Read the Entire Word Problem
Before students look for keywords and try to figure out what to do, they need to slow down a bit and read the whole word problem once (and even better, twice). This helps kids get the bigger picture to be able to understand it a little better too.

2. Think About the Word Problem
Students need to ask themselves three questions every time they are faced with a word problem. These questions will help them to set up a plan for solving the problem.

Here are the questions:

A. What exactly is the question?
What is the problem asking? Often times, curriculum writers include extra information in the problem for seemingly no good reason, except maybe to train kids to ignore that extraneous information (grrrr!). Students need to be able to stay focused, ignore those extra details, and find out what the real question is in a particular problem.

B. What do I need in order to find the answer?
Students need to narrow it down, even more, to figure out what is needed to solve the problem, whether it's adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, or some combination of those. They'll need a general idea of which information will be used (or not used) and what they'll be doing.

This is where key words become very helpful. When students learn to recognize that certain words mean to add (like in all, altogether, combined), while others mean to subtract, multiply, or to divide, it helps them decide how to proceed a little better

Here's a Key Words Chart I like to use for teaching word problems. The handout could be copied at a smaller size and glued into interactive math notebooks. It could be placed in math folders or in binders under the math section if your students use binders.

One year I made huge math signs (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and divide symbols) and wrote the keywords around the symbols. These served as a permanent reminder of keywords for word problems in the classroom.

C. What information do I already have?
This is where students will focus in on the numbers which will be used to solve the problem.

3. Write on the Word Problem
This step reinforces the thinking which took place in step number two. Students use a pencil or colored pencils to notate information on worksheets (not books of course, unless they're consumable). There are lots of ways to do this, but here's what I like to do:

Circle any numbers you'll use.
Lightly cross out any information you don't need.
Underline the phrase or sentence which tells exactly what you'll need to find.

4. Draw a Simple Picture and Label It
Drawing pictures using simple shapes like squares, circles, and rectangles help students visualize problems. Adding numbers or names as labels help too.

For example, if the word problem says that there were five boxes and each box had 4 apples in it, kids can draw five squares with the number four in each square. Instantly, kids can see the answer so much more easily!

5. Estimate the Answer Before Solving
Having a general idea of a ballpark answer for the problem lets students know if their actual answer is reasonable or not. This quick, rough estimate is a good math habit to get into. It helps students really think about their answer's accuracy when the problem is finally solved.

6. Check Your Work When Done
This strategy goes along with the fifth strategy. One of the phrases I constantly use during math time is, Is your answer reasonable? I want students to do more than to be number crunchers but to really think about what those numbers mean.

Also, when students get into the habit of checking work, they are more apt to catch careless mistakes, which are often the root of incorrect answers.

7. Practice Word Problems Often
Just like it takes practice to learn to play the clarinet, to dribble a ball in soccer, and to draw realistically, it takes practice to become a master word problem solver.
I am a California certified teacher with multiple degrees and certifications  (B.A., M.Ed, Ed.D in Educational leadership, ESOL, GLAD, and AVID) who has taught Middle school and Upper Elementary school for 15 years and I have been teaching mathematics to homeschoolers from grades k-12, both in-person and online for over 6 years.  I always wanted to be a teacher, and I am living the dream!  Also, I cater to students who struggle with or do not care for math. I say this because Algebra is critically important because it is often viewed as a gatekeeper to higher-level mathematics and it's a required course for virtually every postsecondary school program.  I have 6 basic reasons why I think offering this class is so important.  

1) Algebra is Faster And Better Than “Basic” Math
Just as multiplying two by twelve is faster than counting to 24 or adding 2 twelve times, algebra helps us solve problems more quickly and easily than we could otherwise. Algebra also opens up whole new areas of life problems, such as graphing curves that cannot be solved with only foundational math skills.

2) Algebra is Necessary to Master Statistics and Calculus

While learning one kind of math to learn more kinds of math may not be an immediately satisfying concept, statistics and calculus are used by many people in their jobs. For example, on my other side job as a research person for a local non-profit organization, I use statistics every day. I help departments identify ways to measure their success. In general, statistics are used in certain jobs within businesses, the media, health and wellness, politics, social sciences, and many other fields. Understanding statistics makes us wiser consumers of information and better employees and citizens.

Calculus helps us describe many complex processes, such as how the speed of an object changes over time. Scientists and engineers use calculus in research and in designing new technology, medical treatments, and consumer products. Learning calculus is a must for anyone interested in pursuing a career in science, medicine, computer modeling, or engineering.

3) Algebra May Be a Job Skill Later

A student may be confident they are not going into any career needing statistics or calculus, but many people change jobs and entire careers multiple times in their working life. Possessing a firm knowledge and understanding of algebra will make career-related changes smoother.

4) Algebra Can Be Useful in Life Outside of the Workplace

I have found algebra helpful in making financial decisions. For example, I use algebra every year to pick a health care plan for my family using two-variable equations to find the break-even point for each option. I have used it in choosing cell phone plans. I even used it when custom-ordering bookshelves for our home. 

5) Algebra Reinforces Logical Thinking

I would not use algebra as the only means of teaching logic. There are more direct and effective means of doing so, but it is a nice side-benefit that the two subject areas reinforce one another.

6) Algebra is Beautiful

The beauty of algebra is an optional benefit because one has to truly choose to enjoy it, but algebra provides us with a basic language to describe so many types of real-world phenomena from gravity to the population growth of rabbits. That five letters can be used to describe how an entire category of matter, namely ideal gases, behaves is amazing and beautiful in its simplicity.

There is also a beauty when we start with a complex-looking problem and combine and simplify over and over until we have one value for each variable. The process can be enjoyable and the result immensely satisfying.

Algebra is an important life skill worth understanding well. It moves us beyond basic math and prepares us for statistics and calculus. It is useful for many jobs some of which a student may enter as a second career. Algebra is useful around the house and in analyzing information in the news. It also reinforces logical thinking and is beautiful.

So, keep an open mind about why we learn algebra and look for ways to share its applications with students. Dispel the stigma that it is a boring list of rules and procedures to memorize. Instead, consider algebra as a gateway to exploring the world around us. Those are our top reasons why we learn algebra, and there are plenty more. 
Homework Offered
Homework Students will be given worksheets to compete and be prepared to have discussions at the start of the next class.
0 - 1 hours per week outside of class
Assessments Offered
Students will be given a Summative Assessment assignment. The assessment is designed to reinforce the concept of reading and breaking down Math word problems. If students struggle with the assignment, I will be made aware of misunderstandings, and shortcomings of the lesson taught. When "weak" areas are identified on the assignment, I can address during the next available class period and will have students take a short online practice on a fun and interactive website.
Grades Offered
 1 file available upon enrollment
Print out of the attaches included in this lesson
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Average rating:4.8Number of reviews:(458)
Profile
I am currently a 7th and 8th grade Math and Science Middle School Teacher and truly love what I am doing. When it comes to teaching, I believe it is about developing strong relationships that tap into students' passions and provide relevancy to... 
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