Sunday, November 9, 2008

Developing problem solving, reading and comprehension skills

My little challenging group of year 10's can be quite difficult to engage at times. A real issue with their maths is getting them to read the question effectively. Completely out of character, they have loved exercises in the book Logic Mysteries by Jane Molnar. Although it misleadingly states grade 3-5 on the cover, the year 10 students have loved the idea of reading these problems and solving them. When I first introduced it, I abandoned the rest of my normal planned lesson as I had not seen these students this enthused and engaged since the algebra topic.

Each mystery has a story and is solved by eradicating options that do not exist. A grid is set up to record the findings as they go through the mystery.

Many great mathematical concepts can be investigated. For instance complementary events become obvious, if she has a bird - all the options in the bird column that are boys can be eradicated. Inequalities can be investigated through clues like Jane's age is less than Mary's. Sets can be investigated through concepts like Mary's item fits in a school bag... and so on..

The main thing is that it requires the students to read the clues that are not necessarily in order, requiring reading and re-reading until they are all done.

A similar book Quizzles or More Quizzles by Wayne Williams has proven very successful with my upper class of year tens. These logic puzzles are multi dimensional and can be quite difficult so be warned!

For these to be successful I invited students to attempt them themselves for 5 minutes then modelled how to complete a problem. Then the following day I gave another problem at the start of class.

Either way, improving comprehension and reading ability is more and more important in mathematics (the temptation to enter into a diatribe as to why we need to teach English in maths here is near on irresistible - I shall try though!). These three books have been some of the more enjoyable methods of developing literacy skills thus far.

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