Today

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.

**Steps of Cooperative Problem Solving**

**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.

**Independent Assessments**

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.

*Laura Candler is the creator of the Teaching Resources website and the author of the Corkboard Connections blog. She’s written over a dozen print books and ebooks for educators including Mastering Math Facts, Math Stations for Middle Grades, and the Daily Math Puzzler series.*

Erica Steiner says

Love this strategy for math. I use a similar one and the kids love doing it.

Erica Steiner says

Love this strategy for math. I use a similar one and the kids love doing it.