The widely-adopted Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice call for students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, reason abstractly and quantitatively, construct viable arguments, model solutions, and attend to precision, among other math skills. Unfortunately, most district-adopted curricula does not require students to exercise these skills frequently enough to achieve a level of mastery. Yes, they may be able to solve several problems that require subtraction with regrouping, but can they truly articulate the reason why their solutions are correct?
If the answer is no, then I have a tool your students can start using tomorrow that will immediately challenge them to develop these essential math skills. I call this tool Write to Explain.
Write to Explain Recording Sheet
This Write to Explain recording sheet can be used with virtually any math problem, but it is especially handy when it comes to solving hefty word problems that require multiple computational strategies and steps. The format is simple: four boxes that guide students through four steps.
Step 1: Record the Question
Step 2: Model and Solve
Step 3: Solution
Step 4: Explain
Tips to Get You Started
Sift through a review math unit and pull out a few word problems with which you know your class will feel successful (when introducing a new routine, you want those brain cells focused on the process, not getting hung up on math skills with which they aren’t familiar). On the first two days, have students observe as you solve a problem using the recording sheet and ask them to listen to your think-alouds as you solve. On day three, have students complete a problem with you. Although some of your high achievers may want to hurry off and complete the recording sheet their way, it’s important to work step by step together so the process is deeply solidified. Continue to share your think-alouds as you record and they copy your example onto their own paper. Depending on your class, you may repeat this process for one additional day or for several additional days.
Up and Running
Once this training process is complete, you can introduce Write to Explain as independent work or as partner work that students complete as part of their daily math routine.
Laura Santos, from Core Inspiration by Laura Santos, is a teacher creator with six years of experience teaching grades 2-4. She is currently a second grade teacher and enjoys creating enrichment resources that challenge her active learners. For more inspiration, visit her blog and TPT Store, or swing by her Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.