Math is all about problem solving. One of the best ways to help children learn math is to present them with a problem in which they have to devise their own strategies to find the solution(s). There is usually more than 1 way to solve math problems and children need the opportunity to discover shortcuts and their own algorithms to determine the appropriate solution, they should also justify their solution(s).
The following math word problems are specific for children in the first grade and are divided into the main math cagegories: Number Concepts, Patterns and Algebra, Geometry and Measurement, Data Management and Probability. Children should be involved in problem solving activities every day. Problems for second grade students should be read to them. Students should also be able to describe why their solutions work or how they know it's the right solution. My favorite question to children is 'how do you know'. When they have to explain how they arrived at their answer, you immediately know the learning that has taken place.
Patterns and Algebra
You will need to find colored cubes or blocks for this activity. Arrange the blcoks or cubes into a pattern (e.g., X 0 0 | | | X) ask the student 'what comes next in this pattern? How do you know? Have the student create a variety of patterns and ask them the rules for the pattern. Use stickers, plasticine and coins to make a variety of patterns. Eventually the patterns should increase in level of difficulty.
Data Management and Probability
'The Bag Draw'! For this activity, put 2, 4 and 5 items in a bag - each with a different color. For instance, 2 red, 4 blue and 5 orange items. The child will reach in the bag without looking and select an item. Ask him/her to predict which color they will select. Ask the child to do this 10 times and record the color of item each time. Ask them to repeat the process and predict what will happen. After the activity, ask the child why they think a specific color was selected more often and which one was selected least often. Why? (You can do a similar activity using a spinner with colors or numbers.
I have twelve jelly beans but I have to share them with Willa, how can I share them so that we both have the same amount?
Give the student 32 blocks or cubes. As the student how many different ways can the items be stacked so that there are the same number in each grouping. Ask how did they know how many cubes to put in each stack. Ask how they know if they have found out all of the ways. Try this activity with 18, 24 and 20 items.
Geometry and Measurement.
Select 4 or 5 items (Kleenex box, deck of cards, books etc.) As the child to estimate units long or wide it will be (explain the ruler or measuring device initially), then have the child measure to see how close he/she is, repeat the process.
Symmetry: have children look for lines of symmetry in a variety of objects. Explain that when you cut an orange in half, it's symmetrical because each side matches or looks the same. Ask the child to find 5 items that are symmetrical. Again, ask 'how do you know'.
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