Whenever my students finish their daily math activity early, they proceed directly to their Math Problem Solving Menus and work on them until the end of the period. Since I adopted this idea several years ago, it has been one of the most effective parts of my overall math curriculum. Each menu is a sheet with four open-ended story problems that call on students to employ a wide variety of strategies, such as Draw a Picture, Make a Chart, Choose Operations, and Work Backwards. There are nine menus in the set, and students strive to complete as many of the nine as possible before the end of the year. The menus begin with straightforward, multi-step problems involving addition and subtraction. From there, the menus increase in difficulty and complexity. Many of the problems connect to and extend concepts we are learning in class, while others feature concepts and require strategies that go beyond our state’s content standards. The menus offer a wonderful way to differentiate math instruction and engage children with interesting opportunities to apply their math skills in real-life contexts. Because each menu is part of the larger set of nine, there is a year-long cohesiveness to this activity, and children often view the endeavor as a video game, attempting to move to higher and higher levels. As a result, using the menus promotes goal-setting and an achievement orientation. Trying to complete all nine menus before the end of the year becomes a meaningful, shared classroom goal. This PDF file also includes a scoring rubric, answer key, list of possible strategies, a problem solving template on which the kids do their work, and management suggestions. I view these menus as the ultimate solution to the common "What should I have my students do when they finish their math work early?" dilemma.
Math Problem Solving Menus
by Steve Reifman
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License