This session addressed the process of solving word problems. They key issue is separating the process from the content of the problem.

The process used comes from Singapore Math. It uses a single representational model (the unit bar) for a variety of problems. The steps of the process are:

  1. Read the entire problem.
  2. Identify the people in the question (Juan, or Mrs. Finkelberry), and what of their posessions the problem is about (Juan's Money, or Mrs. Finkelberry's pies).
  3. Draw unit bar(s) as appropriate.
  4. Read the problem again, sentence by sentence (or fragment, as appropriate) using the given information to label the unit bars.
  5. Determine what the question is, and illustrate it on the unit bar.
  6. Compute the problem.
  7. Write the answer as a complete sentence.
In order to connect this process to prior experience, the presenter used the "doctor rounds" model. The vocabulary for this model is as follows: This may either be done as a class exercise (with the teacher as the lead doctor, and the students as residents) or in groups (chief of surgery poses the question, monitors the health of the problem, and reports on the final results, pathologist identifies facts, diagnostician choses operation, surgeon solves the problem). This process is also well suited to a CSI style of detective work.

Below are some examples of the Singapore Math Unit Bar applied to a variety of problems.






I have attempted to create some lessons based on this concept. They are available here.