From the time I began working in schools (before I even had a full time classroom teacher position) I always heard two big gripes about math.
- Students don’t retain concepts- A month after finishing a unit, all the strategies and fluency your students have developed have flown out the window.
- Word Problems are SO HARD for students- nevermind multistep word problems.
When I found them to be my own when I started teaching, I decided I needed to really find a way to try to combat these issues. When I began teaching first grade I came in with the perspective of a prior third grade teacher. I wanted to know what I could give my students at the fundamental, basic levels of conceptual math instruction that could grow with them as they got into more difficult and complex math problems as they got older.
I began to wonder… what if we just practiced word problems as a part of our math routine each day?
I began to develop and introduce my students to problem solving journals. At first, I focused on skills, like Place Value and Subtraction, which matched the unit we were studying during math. This practice REALLY helped them to internalize and make sense of some of these concepts, but I was still dealing with the issue of retention… and that is when my monthly word problem journals with spiraled review were born.
Reasons I love spiral Math Word Problem journals:
- Seasonal content is relevant. Problems can be written to be meaningful and concrete for students.
- 4 step problem solving with visuals, equations, and answers helps students to persevere and solve a problem all the way through as well as have a solid understanding.
- Checklist on each page helps guide students to be sure they have fully solved the problem.
- Spiraled review helps students to continue to pull from concepts previously taught and learned.
- Variety of visual representations and problem types- including charts, graphs, inequalities, number line etc. help provide students with a variety of representations to help them problem solve.
I combined these problem solving journals with a problem solving routine during our math time, and magic started to happen. Students grew with math independence, retained content knowledge, and became more confident in taking on problems that they may not immediately know how to solve.
I currently have created September through May in monthly math journals and then a summertime journal for students which are all designed to meet first grade math standards.
I also designed a kindergarten number math journal which is great for kindergartners here!