What do you do when you hit a road block or a problem? You call a friend, talk to someone near you to get help or look it up. This makes us better learners, and it allows us to gain new knowledge and strategies. Students can become better problem solvers when they are given opportunities to work together. When the problem are differentiated, they are working at their highest level.
Why work on problem solving together?
21st century skills are definitely going to be needed in the workforce in the coming years. The ideas of collaboration, critical thinking, communication and cooperation will not be going away. Not to mention that old saying “two heads are better than one” rings true. Working together to solve problems can help students who struggle learn great strategies, and it can help students who excel go deeper with interpersonal skills. Learning to communicate with others respectfully is extremely important. In addition this helps students use the Standards for Mathematical Practice: perseverance, constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.
What is a collaborative math problem?
A collaborative problem is where a group of students come together to solve a problem that has been split into several pieces (or clues). The entire group is given the question, and then each member is given a clue that is needed to solve the problem. Members work together to solve the problem by sharing their clues and strategies. In the end, they also evaluate themselves on their group’s communication and cooperation.
What age group is this most appropriate for?
These problems are appropriate for third through fifth graders. The problems are differentiated into four levels so that you can create flexible groups.
How often can you use this problem type in class?
This type of problem solving will likely take longer the first time you do it. You will want to walk students through the process the first time (see the steps on the Student Recording Sheet in the preview). The more times you go through the cycle (never leave out the reflection piece!) the faster they will start to solve the problems as a team. Then, it will not take as much class time. I do these once a week to start, then I space them out further apart as we get into other types of problem solving. In every classroom there should be a good balance between solving problems as an individual and solving problems as a group.
In this Resource:
1. Teacher preparation instructions
2. Classroom preparation instructions
3. Fishbowl graphic organizer
4. Answer key
5. Pre-test to level student abilities to problem solve
6. Student recording sheet
7. Student reflection and goal setting sheet
8. 20 problems (5 at each level)
* Check out the preview to see how it all works and to try a level one problem.
* Warning, level four problems are SERIOUSLY complex!
If you like challenging problems, feel free to check these out:
Open Ended Word Problem: FREE Doggy DilemmaOpen Ended Word Problems (My best seller!)Open Ended Problems - Set 2
Holiday Version - Open Ended Problems (Performance Task)