No Series: Persistence in Problem Solving


Common core State Standards

  • Math:  Math
  • Practice:  Mathematical Practice Standards
  • MP1:  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

    Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Older students might, depending on the context of the problem, transform algebraic expressions or change the viewing window on their graphing calculator to get the information they need. Mathematically proficient students can explain correspondences between equations, verbal descriptions, tables, and graphs or draw diagrams of important features and relationships, graph data, and search for regularity or trends. Younger students might rely on using concrete objects or pictures to help conceptualize and solve a problem. Mathematically proficient students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, \"Does this make sense?\" They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Persistence in Problem Solving

Lesson Objective: Increase student confidence using multiple problem solving strategies
Grade 3 / Math / Word Problems


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does the graphic organizer help scaffold problem solving for students?
  2. Why does Ms. Saul choose to have students work alone without help?
  3. How do "Heads Together Butts Up" and "Student-led Solutions" contribute to the class culture around problem solving?


  • Private message to Ana Harston
  1. How does the graphic organizer help scaffold problem solving for students?  The graphic organizer help students problem solve independenly in as many ways while arriving at the same answer.
  2. Why does Ms. Saul choose to have students work alone without help? Student lead solution allows student to do work in their own way. and work with other students to see how thwy were able to resolve a solution to the answer.
  3. How do "Heads Together Butts Up" and "Student-led Solutions" contribute to the class culture around problem solving? Stud with the answer. They can w theowexplain. They come to the from and demonstrate without teacher telling them how to come up with the results.
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  • Private message to NANCY PRONKO

Persistence in Problem Solving is challenging!

Persistence in Problem Solving
Persistence in Problem Solving
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  • Private message to Athena Morris

The video I chose was Persistence in Problem Solving.  I think this video relates to the Math: Making Sense of Word Problems Mirco-Credential because it was a good example of a teacher giving a word problem that the students could relate to and then having them find 3 ways to solve the problem.  This allowed for the student to make sense of the problem in their own way, which would give them an opportunity to use different strategies.  The teacher allowed for individual time to solve (4 minutes) and then collaboration time, which would help to build their confidence and at the same time learn from another student.  After their group/partner discussion they came together as a class for 3 students to show their work and how they solved the problem. 

The demonstrated approach was really good.  I love the phrase  the teacher used, "heads together butts up."  I usually just say, "turn and talk with your face/shoulder partner."  I think I will incorporate that term into my room.  I usally have two groups/students come to the board/projector to display their work, but I like the 3 group/student approach better, so I will incorporate that too.  I will look online for the Find 3 Ways paper or create one myself.  I don't have any concerns with trying to integrate this approach into my classroom and I am looking forward to trying something new.  I think this will lead to improved learning outcomes because instead of just one way of solving a word problem they will have three ways.  Also, it will be something new for them to try and they love trying new things!  

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  • Private message to carl sousa

What an exceptional strategy for building both independent and collaborative work. "Life skills that everybody needs." 

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  • Private message to Kimberly Simmons

I submitted above.

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  • Classroom Close Up: 3rd Grade Math: Persistence in Problem Solving with
    Jennifer Saul

    Jennifer: "Is it OK to make mistakes?


    Classroom Close Up: 3rd Grade Math: Persistence in Problem Solving with
    Jennifer Saul

    Jennifer: "Is it OK to make mistakes?

    All: "YES!"

    Jennifer: "So, you just fix them and learn from them. Mistakes are easy to fix."

    Establishing a strong classroom culture is essential. You have to normalize error. They have to know that it's OK to try, and try, and try again. We want them to wrestle with a problem, and to stay with it. So, we came up with Find Three Ways.

    Hopefully, this activity helps them take ownership for their own learning.

    "OK I need some more help."

    So, at the beginning, I present them with a problem, and really appeal to their sense of empathy.

    "I need your help figuring out for four hungry teachers, is my $20.00 enough to buy four burritos and, if it is enough, do I have any left over to maybe get sodas? You're going to try to find three different ways to solve the problem."

    Once the problem's been recorded on the board, they are sent back to their seats, with their record sheet. One side has areas where they can do work, and ideas for strategies to use. And, the backside's purposefully left blank. So, they have a lot of freedom.

    "Remember our initial tackling and wrestling with this problem is independent work."

    They have four minutes to wrestle with the problem independently, and to try to solve it as many ways as they can think of.

    "What did you do? Oh, from your table?"

    If they can solve it three ways, and arrive at the same answer three times, that would help with their confidence level. They can assure themselves and don't have to wait for the teacher to come around, and say "Yep, you got it."

    "OK...discuss with your table."

    And then, we do what's called "Heads Together, Butts Up!" We want their heads together, showing each other what they were successful with, maybe others who need support, or didn't know where to go with it, can get an idea.

    Sara: "How did you get this answer? I got it by adding this."

    Lisette: "I got it by adding four and four, and adding twelve and twelve."

    Sara: "OK."

    Jennifer: They're allowed to copy each other's notes as long as they're having the discussion about why something was done in a particular way. It's a chance for them to practice using the language, and have discourse over what they're doing.

    During that whole time, I try to rotate around the room, offer support. And, so I'll have in my mind, who I would like coming up to the front of the class, and sharing their work.

    "Show me learning positions please."

    They turn to the front of the room, and three students are called up, and I use my document camera and they can show and explain their work.

    Carlos: "Then I added the ones, 1,2,3,4."

    Establan: "Then I multiplied the four and the four, equals 16."

    Sara: "First, I made a table. In the first two boxes, I put the teachers and amount."

    Jennifer: Having a student-led solution enhances our culture of learning as a class. It's not me dictating how they should get to a particular result. It allows them to choose their own path, but it also opens up doors for consulting with each other, and collaboration, which are life skills that everybody needs.


Jen Saul
English Language Arts Math Science Social Studies Arts / 3 / Teacher