# Making maths word problems interesting?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by ellie_rose, Oct 17, 2011.

1. ### ellie_roseNew commenter

Hi everyone,

I have an interview coming up where I have to teach a numeracy lesson based on two step word problems. The class is a Year 4 class and the children are working at Level 3 and 4. I am thinking of ideas but I'd really appreciate some advice from all of you. I have a some quick questions:

1) The info I have been given is that the class have been working on two step word problems involving time and money (they have done a lot of work on money problems in particular.) Does this mean I should steer away from money, as they are already ok with this, or focus on this as they are probably good at it?

2) I have taught word problems before (on both time and money) but most of these were not particularly practical or unique lessons and involved worksheets and typed out questions to work on. I want this lesson to really stand out so does anyone have any ideas for practical, engaging activities for word problems? It's can be hard to make them fun...

2. ### roseangel

Why not set up some kind of scenario like a day at a theme park. Then you could give the prices of things. Problems could be: 6 children and 2 adults go on the Ferris wheel. How much change would they get from a &pound;10 note?
just realised that theme parks usually charge an all inclusive price but you could adapt that. You could also include time questions too. If it takes 10 mins to do x and 45 mins to do y will they be able to have lunch at 12 type of thing.
Sorry it's all a bit vague, don't know if I'm helping or hindering. Sorry.

3. ### WolfPaulOccasional commenter

The best tactic I have found is to make tha problems all about pizzas. This works particularly well for problems involcing fractions, and is much more interesting than the SATs paper questions now that the health fascists have got hold of the question setters. There used to be some good questions about biscuits, for examnple.

4. ### redredrobin

Could you give them word problems to solve in groups? Give them a set of clues and each child is responsible for 1 or 2 of them. Put in some information that is irrelevant so they have to decide what is important. They find the solution together and check it fits with each of the clues. To make the clues, just break up some normal word problems into sentences.

5. ### ellie_roseNew commenter

Thanks for your advice. For people that have experience of teaching this, what method do the children usually use to work out the problems/operations? For addition and subtraction, do they tend to use column method or partitioning? My placement school used both depending on what year. I would like to model some problems but what would be the best way to do this?

6. ### mystery10Occasional commenter

My guess is you need to ask the school if you want the answer to this. Teachers seem to differ about the age and NC level at which they introduce the different methods.
But as you are concentrating on worded problems maybe it doesn't matter what method they use for each of the operations, more that they can see what they need to do to get to the answer (e.g multiply this by this then divide by 7).
If the aim is to get them to improve their problem solving abilities you could use calculators in the lesson so they don't get bogged down by the arithmetic? And have some kind of thing which involves them discussing how to solve the problem in role play groups of some sort perhaps?
Time and money - level 3 ------- one of my children is level 3 but she's not particularly good at time I have to say. What is included in level 3 for time?

7. ### alea

Definitely check with the school they will probably have a calculations policy but check with the (regular?) teacher to see where individual children are.
Have you looked at finding all possibilities type problems (like the challenges from national strategies) or those where you have a set of clues (sometimes with unhelpful information) and only by using all the clues together you can solve the problem?

8. ### mrsmayblossom

just on the off chance, were you given a list of names of the children? If so you could include their names in the word problems?

9. ### clarkydekz

Flash up an image - perhaps a pair of trainers (something unexpected but appealing) and ask them to generate various problems in pairs - I'd imagine you'll get some single-step responses. Record on the board and then ask a child to come and identify the key vocab. Use this process to model how the problem would be solved. Remember to get them to use estimates to check their own accuracy! Then, introduce 2-step problems .. perhaps you could extend the example given by a child. Don't underestimate the necessity to really hammer home the mental process that children need to undertake when solving .. Read, Understand, Choose (appropriate operation), Solve, Answer, Check. Following on from this, extend to the other operations. Main activity - present clearly differentiated word problems (using images really does bring it to life). Be clear about how much time the children have and how many responses you expect in the time available. Plenary - go through one of the problems. Ask children how to solve and draw out the process outlined above. Perhaps ask them to share why they think such 'everyday' contexts are a vital part of maths learning. Good luck!

10. ### ellie_roseNew commenter

Thank you very much for all your brilliant advice. Got my fingers crossed for my interview!