Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Was the Bus Empty When it Left the Terminal

Image from FreeFoto.com

While gathering math ideas for the sisters I'm tutoring, I came across a problem that has a problem. I decided to find out if they could see it too. Here it is:

For the Good Cheer food drive, your class collected 320 cans of food. Each family gets 40 cans of food. How many cartons will you need to pack them?

I'm sure the intended answer is 8 - the number of families who would get food. However, the question asked how many cartons you need. Both girls knew the problem; they needed to know how many cans fit in a carton. We talked about vague, ambiguous, or just plain bad word problems. I told them not to be afraid to speak up when they come across such problems. 

We moved on - 
The bus left the terminal and picked up 5 people at the first stop. At the second stop, 2 people got off and 4 people got on. At the third stop, 3 people got off and 5 got on. How many passengers were now on the bus. 

Instantly, the older girl asked, "Was the bus empty when it left the terminal?" I grinned and congratulated her for getting the message. No test was needed to assess her learning.

That morning, all three of us had a great time playing math!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Heart is Happy

Flickr photo by fauxto_dig
This is a great day! One more student is beginning to replace the I can'ts with I cans when it comes to math. I played math for an hour this morning with two new students, 5th and 8th grade sisters. Prior to today, the one word that described how the older one felt about math is FRUSTRATED. We played with addition, multiplication, and fractions. Both girls are bright, articulate, and eager to understand what math is all about. Their mom didn't want to overwhelm them, so our first session was just an hour. We made plans to get together again on Thursday, so she asked the 8th grader if two hours would be too much. The young lady replied, "I could do this all day!" I had told her when we met that I help kids understand math because it hurts my heart that so many kids feel defeated by it. Today I responded to her upbeat attitude and enthusiasm by saying, "My heart is so happy!" What a great day! I can't wait for Thursday.