Today we examine a time-tested method to help kids reason about math: Leave out the numbers.
First up, there’s Brian Bushart’s numberless problem bank for young students. Then we’ll look at Farrar Williams’s modern revision of a math teaching classic with problems for upper-elementary and middle school students.
Have fun thinking math with your kids!
Word Problem Bank
Word problems are commonplace in mathematics classrooms, and yet they regularly confound students and lead to frustrated teachers saying things like:
- “They just add all the numbers! It doesn’t matter what the problem says.”
- “They don’t stop to think! They just start computing as soon as they’re done reading the problem.”
Brian Bushart offers a collection of ready-to-go slide presentations that walk through the steps of making a word problem make sense.
Math With No Numbers
Discover Farrar Williams’s book Numberless Math Problems: A Modern Update of S.Y. Gillian’s Classic Problems Without Figures, available in ebook or paperback.
Williams writes: “In order to answer the question, they’ll have to explain it, because the problem doesn’t give you anything to calculate with. The only way to answer is by explaining your process. See how sneaky a numberless problem is? It makes students really think about the process of solving the problem.”
“When students face a word problem, they often revert to pulling all the numbers out and “doing something” to them. They want to add, subtract, multiply, or divide them, without really considering which operation is the right one to perform or why.
“When you don’t have numbers, it sidesteps that problem.
“For students who freeze up when they see the numbers, this can be a really good way to get them to think about their process with math.”
—Farrar Williams, Math With No Numbers
CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by saeed karimi via Unsplash.com.