Tackling Tough Problems, Part 2

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

Today I put the strategy I described yesterday into action with my 3rd grade tutorial group.  I developed a little cheat sheet (click on the picture below for the document) for them to glue on the inside of their math journal covers.  With their help, I modeled a couple of problems on the SMART board while they did the work in their math journals.  Okay, get this.  The LOVED it!  Actually, that didn’t really surprise me, because it’s been my experience that kids enjoy drawing problems to solve them.

I explained to the kids that these steps work best on a certain type of problem–one where they need to decide whether to add, subtract, multiply, divide, or a combination of the operations.  My rule of thumb is that if it sounds like a story when you read it (setting, characters, etc.), you can probably solve it by drawing.

Enjoy your Friday tomorrow.  🙂


  1. Pedro Caro

    Donna I came across your blog and have taken a lot of notes on the strategies you have posted. They are easy to incorporate and most important they will have great impact on improving math problem solving skills.

    I am really hooked on “Answer Statement” strategy and need more samples problems/links or resources. I have searched the internet but have not been able to find much resources.

    • Donna Boucher

      The answer statement is really just restating the question in the form of a statement, so you don’t actually need sample problems. You can turn any question into a sentence with a blank for the answer. For example, “How many crayons are in four boxes of crayons?” becomes “There are ________ crayons in four boxes of crayons.” Make sense?


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