Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Problem Solving in a Grade 1 Class April 16, 2013

sheep & chickens 2 I was in Mrs. Powers’ grade 1 class last week doing a problem-solving lesson during their math time. After reading the class the story How Many Feet in the Bed, we did a version of the question about the number of two-legged and four-legged animals possible for a given number of legs. The actual question read this: “In a pen on a farm were some chickens and some sheep. Devon was looking under the pen’s fence and counted 12 legs. How many animals could there be in the pen?” However, I realized when I got to Mrs. Powers’ class with the question ready to paste into student books that what I had wanted was for the question to indicate that the pen could hold chickens and/or sheep, thus allowing for four possible combinations and not just two. So Mrs. Powers and I talked to the children about the question and had them answer the intended question not the written one.

I should mention that we had a conversation before the class started to work on answering the questions about REPRESENTING our thinking. I often talk to children about their drawings when solving an answer – that we are doing MATH and not ART. The picture only needs to represent the things in the question in some way mot be a detailed drawing.

The students went to work with a will. Although ten frames and counters were also available, drawing was by far the method of choice used by almost all the children for solving the problem. Clearly the two students whose work you see here took me at my word about “representing” their thinking, and each drew “sketchy” chickens with two legs and “sketchy” sheep with four legs.

One student’s work shows all four solutions recorded correctly. The second sample also has four solutions, but two are the same. Looking closely, however, it looks to me like the solution in the upper left corner of that sample had the fourth correct answer of three sheep, but was erased.

Mrs. Powers was delighted with the children’s thinking. I predict the students will be doing more problem-solving in the weeks to come! Good job, class!

Mathematically yours,

sheep & chickens 1


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