Using a Math Process Log, students describe their understanding of a problem, and the steps they use to solve it. Their worksheet guides them through the problem solving process, without prescribing a particular method or order. This activity helps students to solve problems with metacognition and understanding, while still scaffolding them enough to allow success. By explaining their thought processes in writing, students are able to clarify their thinking, avoid potential errors, and arrive at deeper levels of interpretation.
- Identify or write a relatively challenging word problem that you want students to solve.
- Create a Math Process Log for the problem. The worksheet should include the problem at the top, then a “special challenge” question or task that logically extends one step beyond the basic problem, and then lists the following questions, with space for student answers:
- What is the problem asking, in your own words?
- What important information is provided?
- How many steps are involved in this problem?
- What math operations will you use?
- Will you diagram or graph anything? If so, what?
- Does the problem have any special difficulties, or things to watch out for?
- What should you do first?
- Then what?
- Then what?
- What will you do to check your work?
- How will you know if the answer is correct?
- How will you answer the special challenge?
- If this activity is new, prepare at least one extra problem and log to model to students.
- You should adapt the questions as you see fit.
- Teacher introduces worksheet, and leads students in a discussion about the benefits of expressive thinking while solving math problems.
Help students to identify how expressing their thoughts during problem solving can help to clarify their thinking.
- Teacher models solving a sample problem using a Math Process Log.
Think aloud about your process as you model.
- Teacher distributes target word problem and worksheets to students. They prepare to work individually or in small groups.
You may want to assign pairs based on student ability and affinity.
- Students carefully read the word problem.
You may want to recommend that students read the problem aloud, and that they read it at least twice.
- Students complete the worksheet, explaining their thoughts as they consider the word problem.Encourage students to use a combination of ordinary language and mathematical language as they write, and to include mathematical symbols as appropriate.Circulate as students are working, leading mini-conferences and listening to and guiding their thinking about how to interpret the word problem.
- Students use their completed worksheets to perform the identified operations and solve the word problem. Students check their work using the identified method.
You may want to model using your completed worksheet to actually solve the model word problem.
- Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.Students respond to questions including:How does writing about your process help you to solve a word problem?How does thinking through all your steps ahead of time change the way you solve a problem?How might you use this worksheet to help solve word problems independently?