Getting students to persevere through multistep problems is a math teacher’s goal. Sometimes these problems turn into a reading extravaganza and the math simply gets lost. After, looking at student data, these multistep problem solving is always an area where we need to improve.

So how do we get them to persevere?

This past week the fourth graders learned a strategy of unraveling the problem. Reading the entire problem at one time is tricky for these youngsters. So the strategy involves students reading the problem one line at a time. All problems are written on one page and folded in such a way that they can only see one part of the problem at a time. They unfold the first flap to see the first sentence of the problem and a prompt of:

What have I noticed? Students are slowing down and making sense of the problem. The questions they ask reflect understanding of what's happening in the number story. Often, I am finding students asking and answering the final question before they even unravel it. They get so excited when predict the question. The multi-steps become less daunting as they add various unknowns to their math model when they receive more information. The best part is…the students are enjoying it; looking at it as challenge, rather than impossible. They’ve demonstrated such success in a few short days.

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