Since there are problems where using equipment is a better strategy than drawing, you should encourage children’s use of equipment by modelling its use yourself from time to time.3 Draw It is fairly clear that a picture has to be used in the strategy Draw a Picture. It should only contain enough detail to solve the problem.
Hence a rough circle with two marks is quite sufficient for chickens and a blob plus four marks will do for pigs.
The school year is off to a roaring start, and this is the year that I figure out how to teach problem solving strategies (and continue making students show their problem solving strategies). Why I like it: It gives students a very specific “what to do.” Why I don’t like it: With all of the annotating of the problem, I’m not sure that students are actually reading the problem. Why I like it: Students are forced to think about what type of problem it is (factoring, division, etc) and then come up with a plan to solve it using a strategy sentence. Check stands for understand, plan, solve, and check.
Problem solving strategies are pivotal to word problems. None of the steps emphasize reading the problem but maybe that is a given. This is a great strategy to teach when you are tackling various types of problems. Why I like it: I love that there is a check step in this strategy.
In some problems though, where there are more variables, it may not be clear at first which way to change the guessing.2 Act It Out We put two strategies together here because they are closely related. In the Farmyard problem, the children might take the role of the animals though it is unlikely that you would have 87 children in your class!
But if there are not enough children you might be able to press gang the odd teddy or two. It is an effective strategy for demonstration purposes in front of the whole class.
The on-looking children may be more interested in acting it out because other children are involved.
Sometimes, though, the children acting out the problem may get less out of the exercise than the children watching.
This includes children themselves, hence the link between Act it Out and Use Equipment.
One of the difficulties with using equipment is keeping track of the solution. The children need to be encouraged to keep track of their working as they manipulate the equipment.