In this activity, students will work in pairs or small groups to solve word problems. You will need to print several copies of the Word Problem (ORG050) poster, one for the whole-class example and one for each group of students.
Begin by asking students if they can think of a time in the past week when they needed to use math to help solve a problem in their everyday life. Tell students that you will be reading a book with examples of word problems. I recommend Math Curse, by John Scieszka and Lane Smith (Viking Juvenile, 1995). Ask students to listen carefully for word problems as you read.
Read the book then focus on one of the word problems from the story. Use the Word Problem poster to model how to determine the question, the essential information and the plan to solve the problem. Emphasize the last question on the poster, “Can I draw a diagram of the problem?” Encourage students to come up with more than one way to represent the problem by drawing a picture.
After working through one of the problems as a class, break students into groups and have them solve another problem from the book using the Word Problem poster to record their thinking.
Circulate around the room to help students identify the question, necessary information and operations needed to solve the problem. When all groups have finished, have them share the strategies they used to solve the problem, using the group poster as a visual.
As an extension to this activity, have students write their own word problems using problems from the story as examples. Collect the student-created word problems and use them as warm-up questions for the next few weeks.