Pumpkin Patrol: Trick-or-Treat Problem Solvers October 30 2009

Overall, kids are intimidated by math problem solvers. There are many words, and with those words often comes several pieces of information, which go together somehow to help form an answer, or one of many possible answers. For some kids, just looking at a problem solver can be overwhelming.

Personally, I love problem solvers. I look at them as puzzles to be figured out. And I think they're valuable for kids - the time to process, to build higher-level thinking skills, and to develop patience and endurance while learning.

So I try to start by making problem solving fun! There's a lesson plan on creating and using math problem solver madlibs on Math Can Take You Places. What a great idea for your students to play around with a problem solving skeleton. This will help take some of the intimidation away from the dreaded problem solver.

When your students are comfortable with the idea of solving math word problems, consider using these tips to help them practice and to help you assess their skills in this area.

  1. Follow a routine. I use "What's the Question?" first, then "How Do I Do It?" The next part is "Write It ALL Down," and "Label Each Part." The last piece is "Circle the Answer." I have a poster with this process on it, which I model and encourage students to use as a general guideline.
  2. Do a practice problem solver as a whole group. Type or write up a problem solver and model what strategies you would use to figure out the answer. For example, you might underline important parts and cross out irrelevant information. Take suggestions from your students regarding how to start figuring it out as you go along, and throw a mistake or two in there for your kids to catch.
  3. Have students work in partners. The choice of partner match-ups can be theirs or yours; sometimes, to encourage different partnerships, I randomly pull sticks with students names or numbers on them. Have the partners work out the problem solver on 11x17 paper or a large piece of butcher paper.
  4. Have students work independently. Type up the problem solver, leaving plenty of room on the page for students to work out the problem. They work independently to figure out the answer, and you can use this sheet for an assessment.

Below are sheets by grade level of Halloween problem solvers. Each sheet has three levels of problems: Hard, Harder, and Hardest. This allows for greater flexibility with students' academic and cognitive levels, and lets you match up your students with the best problem solvers for them. Print off all three for a wide variety of problem solvers!

Halloween Problem Solvers for 1st and 2nd Grades

Halloween Problem Solvers for 3rd and 4th Grades

Halloween Problem Solvers for 5th and 6th Grades