Focusing on word problems can improve fact recall. As students progress through an identified four-level continuum of problem solving, they learn to compute. Students approach problem solving beginning with concrete concepts moving toward the abstract.
When children are engaged in conceptual problem solving activities, they are thinking actively about math which results in the development of math skills (Thornton, Langrall, & Jones, 1997). It is virtu- ally impossible for them to be passive observers. When students “do” math rather than “think about” mathematics, it impacts their learning. They are able to use innovative ways to solve problems and they frequently surprise their teachers. On the other hand, practicing procedures (facts) before they un- derstand them, leads to a lack of understanding later (Van de Walle, 2007). Guiding students through word problems using a taxonomy allows them to internalize math processes, and rather than mimicking instruction without understanding, they develop math concepts and skills. Observations and questions posed by teachers can provide them with an understanding of children’s mathematical thinking, allow- ing teachers to use that knowledge to help children develop conceptual learning. In this way, students can solve a wider range of word problems with more strategies and recall math facts better than when facts are taught in a rote isolated way (Carpenter, Fennema, Franke, & Levi, 1999).
Titles available from the T-TAC ODU Library:
Young Mathematicians at Work Series: (Fosnot & Dolk, 2001) Constructing Number Sense, Addition and Subtraction Constructing Fractions Decimals and Percents Constructing Multiplication and Division
Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics, (Van de Walle & Lovin, 2006) Volume 1 (K-3), Volume 2 (3-5), and Volume 3 (5-8) are available.
Carpenter, T., Fennema, E., Franke, M., & Levi, L. (1999). Children’s mathematics: Cognitively guided instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Thornton, C., Langrall, C. & Jones, G. (1997). Mathematics instruction for elementary students with learning dis- abilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30 (2), 142-150.
Van de Walle, J. A. (2007). Elementary and middle school mathematics: Teaching developmentally, 13-14.