What is it? Not-so-radical ways to focus on discussion and thinking deeper about problem solving rather than getting to right answers. Aha moments are made through these discussions…Concepts seen in new ways…Patterns brought to light! It’s beautiful, and sometimes messy.
Inspiration? When I noticed my students weren’t persevering with their problem solving or were simply plugging in numbers and operations, I knew we needed a new approach. How could I get kids to move beyond right answers and thoughtless computation and into a deeper thinking mindset? Only then would they be able to solve these complex word problems. My solution? Word Problem Showdown! (And recently something I learned…Partner Coaching).
Materials: Challenging word problems that have many ways of showing your thinking and points of access (hint, look towards the end of a unit or at the assessment); students divided into partnerships and then those partnerships paired up with another partnership; construction paper and markers for partner work; partner talk prompts are helpful, not 100% necessary for success
Give me the details: For word problems it’s not always better to do more and talk less–the talking is pivotal to students strengthening their own reasoning while evaluating someone else’s ideas.
In this post, I’ll focus on Word Problem Showdown! Click here to learn about Partner Coaching.
- In round 1, the teacher is the judge of the students’ work. Giving feedback and using the word problem showdown criteria rubric (ballot below) helps students know what the expectation is and how to get there. The feedback happens immediately…on the spot, not after I take them home to grade. At this level the teacher awards the winner, usually with a high five, and invites the other student to say what they might have done differently. Then they move into round 2, which is working together.
- Depending on how difficult the problem was, you could have them continue on with the same problem or do a new one. This time they’ll use each other as a resource and collaborate to solve. They are preparing to challenge another partnership who will be solving the same problem. At this point, I give them the problem on a strip of paper (which they can glue on or rewrite–I encourage the gluing to save time), construction paper, and writing tools to create a “flip-up” problem where the work is hidden underneath. Why? Because it’s fun to showcase the work gallery style and have the answers hidden from view.
- And now it’s time for Round 3! They’ve received feedback from a teacher, from their partner, and now they will receive feedback from other students who aren’t as familiar with their discussion and problem-solving. Generally speaking, 4 students will be scoring one showdown between partnerships. I use this ballot for them to cast individual votes, but they are allowed to discuss what they notice and observe from both partnerships. What’s so awesome is kids learn new things from each other that I can’t always predict or plan out. It pushes kids to do better and know they can succeed.