# Watching Students Struggle with a Problem? Yep! Building Problem Solving Brains

Good morning! Off to another weekend day–and hopefully a productive one! I am working on report cards today and also need to do some cleaning up around the house. Thrilling stuff!

I did want to share out what my students and I did Friday in math because you might want to give it a try. A coworker who taught third grade did a problem with her students, and they had all sorts of trouble with it. I was pretty convinced mine would too-so I gave it a try. Boy was I right! Here it is.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I asked the students to work independently on the problem and then we gathered to share out what we got for our answers.

Oh. My. Goodness.

First, I spent a little time asking them what we KNEW FOR SURE about the problem and they were pretty easily able to tell me the following:

Kim has more than Joe (\$120 more to be exact)

and

Together they have \$840

So far so good–right? Oh. My. Goodness.

Here’s what I recorded.

Seriously! Look at all the answers they got! I was crushed! I reviewed AGAIN what we knew for sure and we methodically checked off those solutions that were not possible. Lots of “ohhhhhh” filled the room and we came to the correct solution. Based on some of the comments the students made, I could TELL that we weren’t really getting it. We did some modeling with counters using much smaller numbers to show that simply taking off of one pile and adding on to the other wouldn’t work (I used “Kim and Joe had 10 candies. If Kim has two more than Joe, how many do each have?). Students REALLY wanted to split the candies into two piles, and then take 2 counters off of one pile and add them to the next!

I was pretty sure this helped a few more–but there were still some pretty empty looks! What I did then was to quickly whip up the following problem:

I split the class in two groups and half worked on the word problem (they could work in teams if they wanted) and the other half worked on some great partner problem solving with these multi-step word problems.

Rather pin this post for later?  Here you go!