Sunday, October 5, 2014

Use of Thinking Blocks to Help Solve Math Problems

More and more we are asking students to solve complex math problems.  Along the way we do a lot to help them become successful.  We incorporate the use of many tools during the math classroom.

One of the tools we are using this year in the classroom is called, Thinking Blocks".  This website (there is even a 'free' app for the thinking blocks) poses problems around different types of models.  As a warm up before the regular math lesson this week we practiced solving addition and subtraction word problems using the "part whole model with two parts" and the "part whole model with 3 parts".

As a group we watch a quick 3 minute tutorial, practice several problems and then break off with a partner.  Using chrome books, students access the Thinking Blocks website and begin solving each new problem by first checking for understanding and then manipulating the blocks.  Working with a partner also gets the students used to 'talking' about math problems.  It's great listening in on conversations as students help one another understand why something is working or something isn't! The Thinking Blocks site also provides "feedback" when students are solving incorrectly.  It guides them so they are successful.

These Thinking Blocks help students identify the known and unknown quantities. Using these models students will gain confidence in solving problems while developing strong reasoning skills. They are also a great tool for students to use to 'discuss' math and explain their thinking. They also are a great way to incorporate many of the Standards of Mathematical Practices as students are learning to reason and make sense of the problems and persevere in solving them while using concrete models and appropriate tools. 

Eventually, students will be solving problems by creating these types of models on their own.  But for now, it's a great tool help attain understanding.

What types of models are you using with your students to help them solve problems?