A Little Math Pick Me Up

I generally enjoy teaching math {yes...I am secretively a math nerd}. I think it is just way too much when students explore and manipulate numbers and then have those huge Ah-ha moments! HOWEVER...and this is a BIG HOWEVER...there are two words that make my skin crawl {just a bit}! Dare I say it...problem solving! Why?!? Well...because that my friends requires some SERIOUS thinking!!!! Not that I mind thinking, but when you are trying to teach students how to think...sometimes things just get all jumbled up and I am about 99.9999% sure that my students are convinced that I am speaking Chinese...French... or some language other than their own! Maybe it is just me, but those baffled looks seem to say it all! Well...even though the job of teaching "strategies" to solve problems is a dangerous one...it MUST be done!

The other day, I was talking to one of my sweet teacher buddies {she taught second last year and has now moved to first...so basically we have switched positions...which means at this moment...she is my lifeline!} She shared a nice little strategy with me that she called P.S.A. She has been so gracious to allow me to share it with all of you!  The concept is oh so very simple and the kids are really loving it. Each letter stands for a step in the problem solving process: P = Identify the problem, S = Identify a strategy and solve, A = Answer and check. I loved the idea so I took it and ran as fast as I could back to my room to implement this ASAP! I was desperate...what can I say? Here is what I came up with!
A Problem Solving Bulletin Board
{That I reference a zillion times during math instruction}
I also added place value...the other deadly killer! :)

Annnnddd...a few keywords here and there!

If only that nice little bulletin board would solve all of the world's problems! Of course it has to be taken one little step further. Along with the zillion times that I reference and remind and reference and remind, my sweet friend also shared an idea that allows the students to apply their knowledge and really attack word problems.

I call them Work It Out Problem Solving Folders:
I glued the three strategies to a file folder. After laminating the folder for durability, I cut it into three sections. Now...watch how it all goes down!  It is all about the step by step!
P = problem
Read and identify important information and keywords! Highlight the problem and decide what the word problem is asking you to find.

S = Identify the strategy that you will use to solve the problem. Write an equation and solve!
A = Answer and Check!
During this addition problem, the students used rounding to check and get a "ballpark" figure! {Sorry there is no picture! My camera died on me right as I was about to finish! I will add one later! You get the idea!}

We have been working it out now for three weeks! Their improvement has been remarkable! This strategy truly makes problem solving concrete and gives them specific steps to follow during each problem. It also shows them how much thought it takes to solve these problems {which is not always easy for these little people to grasp...bless their hearts} :). This unit is up at my TPT store and you can check it all out HERE!

Here is a little preview:


  1. I love the idea of cutting the PSA parts into 3 - like a flip book! It will help the kids take it step by step. Thanks for this great idea.

  2. Oh gosh! We are departmentalized so I don't teach math, but this is making me wish I did! I love it!

    シ Tracey
    Our Cool School

  3. Wow! That is an amazing strategy! I love it. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I love your problem-solving idea! I'm trying to teach my kids problem-solving but my math textbook doesn't set up a framework so it's been interesting. But I think I'll use this!

    Also I just awarded you with the Versatile Blogger Award. :)

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  5. Love it and putting my folders together now! Quick question...how often are you doing the problem solving? One a day? One day the whole math time? I'm kinda torn as to how often to plan it in! And do you have any of the word problems to purchase? I find the ones in the math text are to specific, not leaving the kids alot of thinking to do! =)

  6. Do you have a folder for each child?