Monday, October 29, 2012

Math Exemplars - Gotta Love Them

I have a kinda Love-Hate relationship with math word problems. I see the basic need for the students to be able to attack these kinds of questions with skill. But teaching them to pull a four sentence prompt apart is harder than it sounds.

Exemplars is just a fancy term used to cover math word problems that require the kids to do a lot of thinking to find the answer. They combine reading skills, analysis, computation, reasoning, vocabulary, and writing skills to complete. They are a complete educational package in one! I've been using them twice a week in my classroom as part of our Calendar time.

I print out a word problem that uses their names to increase the participation. The students glue them into their math journals and then use a variety of techniques to complete them for the morning activity. I teach them simple strategies first, such as the CUBES method I found on Pinterest this summer. The kids just Circle important numbers, Underline questions, Box math vocabulary, Explain their thinking, and then Solve the problem.

Getting them to do this every time is a chore reminiscent of pulling teeth. But if you keep after them they will start internalizing the process. After the first quarter of school, I boost it up to the next level. G E P P S. This is more labor intensive but you get a really good insight into how they are thinking and if they can explain their process in a coherent manner. I've uploaded an explanation of this model over at TpT.

You can check it out here: GEPPS MODEL
I also put together my first set of 20 exemplars that start the school year off in one package that includes an Answer Key here: Set 01
I do believe the effort and time is worth putting in with these word problems. It really helps the kids focus on what the questions are asking and not to get tripped up in too much verbage. The BIG TEST is always chock full of these and this is a great way to help prepare them for that day. Have fun!
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