Idea BankIdeas you can use right away.

Chart Paper and Manipulatives and Collaborating…Oh My – A Math Problem Solving Model

by Neil Finney

Chart Paper and Manipulatives and Collaborating…Oh My
Problem solving lessons in math are an effective way to engage students in meaningful math exploration and discovery.

Through the introduction of a concept or idea with a short ‘hook’ (a challenge, video clip, demonstration), students are tuned in to what they are about to learn. Using this as a springboard, they can develop a plan, carry it out (using manipulatives or tools) and form a conclusion based on their discoveries and observations. This showcase of thinking and strategies can inspire new ideas and an appreciation of different thought processes.

Tip from a Mentor – When you first attempt to teach the students about math problem solving, it is important to model it yourself by going through the 3 parts of the lesson. Use think-alouds and provide opportunities for them to ask questions as you complete each part of the problem. Describe your problem solving strategies aloud as you arrive at a possible solution.


Things to Keep in Mind:

  • A 3 Part Math Lesson involves; before (10-15 min), during (30-40 min) and after (10-15 min) activities.
  • Math Manipulatives – Can include just about anything that can be manipulated to help grasp a concept. Some examples are; cube-a-link blocks, cuisinaire rods, fraction strips, colour tiles, tangrams, pentominoes.
  • Anchor Charts – Student-created meaningful prompts that are visually displayed in a predictable classroom place. These anchor charts should only live on your walls for the duration of the unit and then be replaced by new anchors to reflect new learning outcomes.
  • Personal Math Diary – A notebook that is used to jot down math ideas, sketches, formulas and sample problems with solutions for student use during problem solving activities.
  • Consolidating their Learning – Students can demonstrate their learning using a Bansho or Gallery Walk. This also provides the class with a venue for further exploration of the problem and extending their learning by observing their classmates ideas and thoughts on possible strategies and solutions.


Do you have a terrific “hook” to use for capturing student attention and engaging them in a math concept (e.g. a YouTube video, math challenge, storybook)? What is it? What difference does it (the hook) make for student success in math?



During Neilʼs 10 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...