Problem Solving Journals

Posted on May 18, 2011. Filed under: Assessment, Classroom environment, Graphic Organizers, Guided math, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency, Problem Solving | Tags: , , , , , , , , |


Here is a great site that talks about using problem solving journals in the primary grades! 

Setting up the notebooks.

The first few weeks.

In terms of the Share and Compare protocol that she mentions (scroll down to the bottom of the page), I want to emphasize a few things.  First of all, the warm-ups, I would use to get the students to practice their mental math and STRESS STRATEGIES!  We want all of our students to gain strategic competence throughout the year.  Next, in terms of the problem of the day, remember that the research says to teach the problems according to the continuum Addition/Subtraction- Join, Separate, Part Part Whole and Compare.  And be sure to note the 5 types of multiplication and division problems for the upper grades.   Students should be very familiar with each problem type, depending on the grade. (Note that these are now part of the New Math Common Core -see the appendix). 

I really like the idea of a mathematician’s chair as a standard routine for sharing the journals.  You could really dress up this chair with numbers and symbols to make it very inviting.  I would also get a cheap microphone from the dollar store, Walmart or Target so that when students sit in the chair, they can use the microphone.  The microphone makes magic happen!  The students really get into the discussion. 

Finally, the idea of taking time to compare their strategies is of utmost importance.  This often gets skipped, but it is a crucial element in this structure.  You want students talking about the different ways they solved the problem.  Remember, problem solving discussions should be “facilitative rather than prescriptive.”  You don’t want to tell the students how to do it, you want them to develop a variety of strategies and then  YOU faciliate those discussions.  You can definitely add to them, but let go of “This is how you do it.” Rather embrace, ” How might you do it?”

Even though this is on a kindergarten blog, the structures are good for any grade. Also, notice the way that she introduces the notebook, the manipulatives and open-ended problems.

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

P.S. Be sure to see the other posts in this blog on problem solving and word problems.

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One Response to “Problem Solving Journals”

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Hi Dr. Nicki,
This posting is so helpful for planning our K-6 math blocks for next year. The problem-solving journal is a must for every student. I can now help our teachers set up the journals and each grade level can integrate what components will make it effective in their classes. Thank you. Great resource.


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