Four Quadrant Math Problem

As most of of us know, math word problems are always at the end of the problem set for the day and 95% of the time we NEVER get to them. If you were to ask most students the math problems they dislike the most…drum roll… WORD PROBLEMS!!! Why is that? Maybe it is because, we teachers, never instruct our students to work them out, where to begin, or how to “attack” a word problem. I think it is our fault that they “hate” these type of problems. But, another sad part of this is that these word problems are usually the only time our students see the math in the “real world.” Word problems should help them make a better connection to the math. We should never get the question, “Why do I have to learn this?”

So, what does this have to do with the Common Core? Below is a graphic of The Standards for Mathematical Practices with Common Core:

Math Standards of Practice

Graphic –

If done correctly, a word problem can cover all eight mathematical practices, here is how!

Last year, a colleague of mine (Mrs. Mchale), told me about a way she was having students work in teams/groups to solve a math word problem. She explained the way she was having students do this on a poster. I thought this was perfect for the upcoming Common Core State Standards. I created a graphic organizer or template for my students to use. I named it Four Quadrant Math Problem:

  1. Show with numbers
  2. Show with a picture or graph
  3. Show with words/sentences
  4. Explain your thinking

You can give the same word problem to each group or switch it up. Usually, I have about six groups and will give half of them problem #1 and the other half of the groups problem #2. Then, they get to work on a rough draft, and then come to a consensus before making their final draft on poster paper with markers. After all the groups are finished, we display and discuss one problem at a time. We compare and contrast ways they solved problems, graphed or drew problems, and their thinking behind the problem. This really allows all the students to really “see” other ways to solve the same problem. This is truly the most powerful aspect of this activity. Below is the graphic organizer I created, please share and use it. I would love to hear from you on here about your experience using it in your class or even at home!!

4 quadrant math problem