Math in the Whole Language Classroom

Giant Story Problems
Student Work Samples

Giant Story Problems are introduced as a whole-class problem solving activity.The story problem is written at the top of chart paper or typed with a large font and glued on the paper. The problem is read aloud and important words and information are highlighted. Student volunteers draw a representation of the problem, making sure that the drawing matches the language of the story problem. When the drawing is complete, students are asked to provide equations that will solve the problem. Finally, a sentence is written that directly answers the question posed in the story problem.

For Kindergartners and First Grade students who are still emerging readers, Giant Story Problems is a great shared-writing activity. For other grades, after a whole group introduction, it moves to small groups working on a smaller scale, then becomes individualized for students working alone on a normal-sized scale.



The story problem at left was done as a whole group shared reading/shared writing activity with a Kindergarten class. Students had been doing equations with their fingers and with linker cubes, so they were familiar with the addition sign. Students were asked to help read the problem by using their knowledge of sight words and letter sounds. I used careful, leading questioning to help children find and highlight the important words, draw a picture that represented the quantities in the problem, and then to write the equation and the sentence that answers the question. The entire process took about 20 minutes. Each picture, number, and word was written by a different student.


The story problem at right
was solved by 3rd and 4th grade students
in a mixed-age classroom.






This pumpkin story problem was done with a 2nd/3rd grade class that was just beginning to work with multiplication. A second grade student offered the addition problem, and a third grade student noticed that it could also be solved with multiplication.



A 4th/5th grade group collaborated on
this problem dealing with miles. Some discussion
was held before the start of the activity
about ways to represent a mile in a drawing.



Small group work is done on full sheets of white construction paper (12x18), following the same process used with the whole group. In a multiage class, younger students do the drawings, middle students do the equations, and oldest students in the group write the sentences After this collaborative activity, students then go on to their own story problem work, individually or with partners, using regular-sized individual story problems on white copier paper.



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