Getting students to READ questions in math... advice appreciated!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Kaley12, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. Kaley12

    Kaley12 Companion

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    Oct 20, 2018

    I'm teaching third grade this year, and I notice a lot of students are often asking me "what do I have to do?" or "I don't get this" when they are doing independent math work. I'm not talking about actual word problems, but simply instructions. For example "Complete the following patterns and write the pattern rule". It's nothing complicated, but I have quite a number of students who want me to always explain to them every question. I would like them to be more independent in their ability to read these types of questions and instructions. I always ask them to re-read it and look at the first question, and sometimes they'll suddenly go "Oh!" and realize what to do. But I feel like some are either lacking confidence to try on their own without me explaining, or maybe even a little lazy at times not wanting to think it through. Are there any little tips I can use to help them be a bit more independent and not rely on asking me so often. I know they can figure 90% of it out on their own, but for some reason my class this year wants to be much more dependent on me than my past classes.
    Thanks :)
     
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  3. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Oct 20, 2018

    Are you ensuring that you are using the same language often when you are teaching the skills? That will help them internalize what they will see as directions and what is expected.

    Also sometimes generalized instructions confuse students. Some might do better if the wording was written to indicate that they have to do the direction for each problem. We would hope they could get the gist of the directions, but some kids don't break down generalization to individual problems.

    What this is actually telling students to do is to complete all of the patterns and write one rule for them all. Notice the plural before the and and the singular after the and. There are kids who will see the inconsistency and know it doesn't make sense based on what they have been doing but no know how to express to you what is confusing.

    A better direction would be, "For each problem, complete the pattern and write the pattern rule."

    I know, you most likely didn't write the directions and just have to work with what is provided.
     
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  4. Mami1Maestra2

    Mami1Maestra2 Rookie

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    Oct 20, 2018

    I've found success in having students annotate the problems.
    Another helpful strategy is giving them word problem using the same values, but different operations. We study the language of the word problem to notice differences in the language used-placement of words, the verbs, key words and phrases that are sometimes helpful...
     
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  5. Kaley12

    Kaley12 Companion

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    Oct 20, 2018

    I feel like I make sure to use proper math vocabulary during my lessons (and keep my math word wall updated), but I should definitely make a conscious effort to check that I am doing so as much as I like to think I am.

    Sorry, I just made up the pattern question off the top of my head because we are currently doing patterning. I just find it funny because sometimes I will simply just read the question to them, word for word, then point the first example they are to complete, and then they understand lol. These are students who don't have difficulty with reading, so it's just a bit puzzling sometimes. Maybe I just need to really reinforce that students should re-read a question and look at the examples before asking for help.
    Thank you for the suggestions :)
     
  6. Kaley12

    Kaley12 Companion

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    Annotating could be helpful... this is something we are starting to work on with larger word problems, so it could be useful for following directions. Thanks!
     
  7. Mami1Maestra2

    Mami1Maestra2 Rookie

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    You're welcome! Word problems are always a struggle.

    I'm an ESOL teacher, and last year I pushed in during the math block. It was my first time teaching 3rd and 4th grade math. I found that it helped students if I gave them 4 problems, all with different operations, but using the same numerical values. They slowly began to see the difference in the language of the problems.

    When I have them re-read the problem, they are required to circle the numbers, underline some key words and phrases. We also analyze how and when to use key words and phrases to help us. Teachers are often taught to not use key words and phrases, but I've found that they are a good starting point for scaffolding.
     
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  8. Kaley12

    Kaley12 Companion

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    Oct 20, 2018

    Love this idea! I'm definitely going to be trying this one out :)
     
  9. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Oct 21, 2018

    For normal directions, you could try having the kids underline or highlight what they are supposed to do.

    For word problems, I have used the 3 reads strategy in the past. You read the problem 3 times and record different information every time you read the problem. (What is it about?, What am I trying to find out?, and what important information do I have?)
     
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  10. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Oct 22, 2018

    Another thought: try some numberless word problems as a whole class, asking them to share what they notice, and what "wonderings" they have. Do that several times together here and there, then eventually turn it more towards them. I think many kids are too used to having two numbers and thus an answer jump immediately at them, that this forces them to slow down.

    Here's a great resource for some good numberless word problems:
    https://bstockus.wordpress.com/numberless-word-problems/
     
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