Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October 2008: Patrick Tenbrink, Math Word Problem Superstar



Picture a fourth grader. You're helping her with math homework one day and she is presented with a word problem. She reads it and tells you that she doesn't understand it. She begins to feel bored. Her focus disappears. You're feeling confused because the student knows how to solve this type of problem.

You should ask yourself, "What would Patrick Tenbrink do?"

image Patrick is a junior at Duke University majoring in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy. He's currently taking an educational psychology service learning course through Duke's Program in Education that requires students to volunteer as tutors.

Patrick created an awesome strategy just for this type of situation. Check it out below.

PS: Check out a great article that DUKETODAY wrote about Patrick being recognized as one of our Network Superstars.

The Strategy


Created by: Patrick Tenbrink, service learning student, Duke University’s Program in Education (America Learns Network member since Feb., 2007)
Topic: - Math Word/Story Problems
Grade Level Strategy Was Originally Used With: Fourth
Arrangements: One-on-One; Small Group; Large Group

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Situation: Dull math word problems leading to distraction and loss of motivation
Step 1: I took a normal word problem with several characters. I gave them funny names and put them in real life/real 4th grade situations.
"Bozley wants to buy 14 rubber snakes, 3 packages of chocolate chip cookies, and 27 tiny cowboy hats. He has $12.35. Each snake is 93 cents, a package of cookies is $1.98, one tiny cowboy hat is $3.47."
Step 2: I inserted situations that would capture the fourth grader's imagination. This lets the student create a mental image of what was happening.
"How much money will Bozley need to borrow from his friend Doofus in order to buy all the items he wishes to buy?"
Some thoughts from the America Learns Team: Patrick is reminding us that when a student seems to be unable to complete a word problem, it isn’t necessarily due to the student not understanding the content. The student may simply find the problem to be incredibly dull.

Years of literacy research and logic tell us that students are more interested in reading when they read about topics that interest them. Patrick applied that knowledge to his mathematics tutoring practice, bringing engaging stories to word problems so that his student would take interest in the assignment. This is a practice that students can do on their own when tutors, teachers and other homework assistants aren’t available.

Thoughts? How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Patrick by clicking the grey “Comments” link below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Patrick! This is so great....and so simple. Thanks so much for sharing this.