I am trading blogs with Laura Candler of Corkboard Connections! You can
read her insightful post about cooperative math problem solving right here and then hop on
over to Corkboard Connections to read my post about Task Cards.
Cooperative learning can transform a classroom, but it does
take a bit of trial and error to be successful. When I was first trained , I used cooperative
learning every day, in every subject, and my students and I were having a
terrific time! But then came the big state test! Oops! I discovered that as a
result of working together all the time, my students lacked confidence in their
ability to work on their own. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and I
had to step back and reevaluate my teaching methods.
time for students to work alone before working with a partner. This step was
especially critical in math because the process of struggling with a problem
and trying different strategies can lead to new insights and understandings. If
we ask students to immediately turn and talk to a partner, we’re depriving them
of the chance to figure it out on their own.
Solving (CPS) strategy, which has four important steps. If you use CPS more than once
on a given day, it occurs in a cycle.
- Teacher Presents the Problem – Display a math problem on
the board, hand out a worksheet, or ask students to turn to a problem in the
math book. Read the problem aloud or ask them to read it silently. You’ll find
free Daily Math Puzzler worksheets on my Problem Solving page that would work
well for this activity. Have students begin with the first problem on the worksheet.
- Students Work Alone – Ask students to work the problem
alone, preferably on dry-erase boards so they can easily erase their work and
try different strategies. They turn their boards face down when they have a
preliminary answer or you tell them that time is up.
- Students Work Together – Students compare and discuss
answers with a partner or with a team. I generally prefer partner work in math,
but if the problem is really challenging, I allow the entire team to talk it
over and work it out together. If students realize that their answer was wrong,
they may change it, but they must show the work to go with their new solution.
They don’t all have to agree, but each person should be prepared to explain his
or her answer.
- Class Discusses Solutions – Reveal the answer to the
class and call on students to share how they solved the problem. Instead of focusing
on a single “right” way, challenge your class to come up with as many
ways to solve it as possible. Allow different students to hold up their dry
erase boards or place them under a document camera as they explain their
solutions. If students are required to record an answer in a journal or on a
worksheet, allow time to do this now, without talking to anyone.
- Repeat steps 1-4 – If time allows, complete the entire sequence with another math word problem.
answers are not a true assessment of their skills. You still need to assign
independent math problems on a regular basis. Doing so holds students
accountable, not only for completing the work, but for learning the skill.
blog post on this topic on Corkboard Connections. You’ll find a link there to a
free webinar on Daily Math Problem Solving.