Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can Your Third Graders Do This?

Solve for A, B, and C using the following equations.

2A + B = 18
B + C = 12
3A = 15

My third graders can! However it looks more like this:


My students think this is great fun. They have no idea they are exploring linear functions or algebraic relationships. All they know is that these problems make them think and they seem to like that.

I usually introduce algebraic thinking problems to third grade students during our unit on multiplication and division. As you know, this topic does go on for quite some time and it can get a little, dare I say, dull. Algebraic reasoning problems give young students a chance to apply their knowledge of basic math facts to fairly complex problems. Problems like this inspire young minds and satisfy their need for a greater challenge. My students are incredibly proud when they are able to solve one of these math problems successfully.

To make things even more interesting, I ask my students to create their own scale problems. We begin with two scales which I improvise with pieces of plain copy paper. I then give the students a variety of objects such as base ten blocks, colored cubes, and geometric tiles. They choose two types of objects to work with and begin creating their scale problems. They have to decide upon a value for each scale and then check it to make sure it works. After that, the students switch places and try to solve the problem. It's one of their favorite activities and it gives me great joy to see them so actively engaged in problem solving.

Give it a try. You won't be disappointed!

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