Monthly Archives: September 2013

My Attempts At CCSS Word Problems

I’m trying to prepare for CCSS, so this year I have been looking at word problems with a specific goal of improving student literacy by connecting each problem to graphs and having students explain their solutions.  Then afterwards coming back to their solutions and analyzing them and improving them.  It’s been successful thus far based on my last assessment so well the hell – figured I share.

I started on day 1 with my Las Vegas Problem.  Then on day 2 I played this video of myself graphing the equations we wrote on day 1 for the two airports.


Then I passed out this worksheet and have the students try to figure out why Wolfram Alpha was calling 14 the “solution”.


I like the worksheet because it has the students try to explain which graph is for which airport, and this is before we have learned to graph or talked about things like y-intercepts and slopes.  It is just them connecting the story to the picture of the story.  The last problem on the worksheet was meant to highlight that context drives the graph, and that this particular graph should not have any negatives because you can’t have negative days.  But we had a good discussion there.

Since this is day 2 and these students aren’t used to having to “explain” their reasoning, I got a lot of papers that gave an answer without any explanation.  So I went back and did a Math Hospital and had the class analyze how to explain their solution.


During the Math Hospital I introduced them to one of the English languages most powerful and poetic words: “because”.  I showed that all they have to do is put that word after their solution and it will literally force you to state the reason for the answer.  CCSS literacy for me isn’t about having the students explain their thought process, rather it is about having the students explain why they made the decision they did.

I did a couple worksheets that were styled like the Vegas one and then I put one of them on Ch1 test (The Internets was on the test).  Every single student explained their answer on the exam.  After the test the class and I did the “Math Gym” where we take their healthy answers and make them healthier!  Basically teaching students that it’s great to choose internet company A because it is cheaper, but we can’t just say it’s cheaper, we need to also explain why it’s cheaper.

Attached are several other worksheets similar to Vegas.  Each of the problems was taken directly from our textbook.  I just provided the graphs and asked the questions in a similar manner to the Vegas trip.  One of the things I really like about these worksheets is that they provide students with a graph of the situation and ask them to make some connection between the graphs and the situation they represent.



The Goods:




My Fellow Teacher

“How’s it going my fellow teacher?”  One of my students told me that.

I’ve been telling my students that people call me a teacher because I get paid to teach. But being a teacher isn’t about a paycheck – it’s about teaching someone something. So all my students are teachers because of all the times they work together and help each other. When we pair share I will say things like “give your fellow teacher a fist bump before we get started”, and they will give each other a fist bump. It has been fun to watch them pick up and run with the message.

Concert Tickets Remix

Word Problem remix here.

I started by playing some Soulshine from Gov’t Mule to set the mood if you will.  From there I pretty much just showed the image below which is a screenshot from the Ticketmaster site when I went to buy the tickets.

This is not the exact image from Ticketmaster because I photoshopped out where they give the subtotal for the cost of the tickets and also where they again give the Tickets/items price because I wanted the students to have to take into consideration the order processing fee.


At this point I just let the black rectangle do it’s thing.  Student engagement was high.  I required each student to also draw a diagram of this situation that would be useful in explaining their thought process.

Then the reveal.


And lastly I give them the original textbook problem that inspired the remix:

A ticket agency sells tickets to a professional basketball game.  The agency charges $32.50 for each ticket, a convenience charge of $3.30 for each ticket, and a processing fee of $5.90 for the entire order.  The total charge for an order is $220.70.  How many tickets were purchased?

I had very high engagement in all three algebra classes even with the textbook problem.  The students felt confident with it and they wanted to figure it out.  Success!

As a side note, lead singer / guitar player Warren Haynes is one of my idols, so giving him some props in a lesson was fantastic.  A few year ago he headlined the High Sierra Music Festival and it was the greatest set I’ve ever experienced.  It’s here.  I recommend beginning with his rendition of “I’d Rather Go Blind” with Ruthie Foster (track 10)