Word Problems Are No Problem With Math Expert Greg Tang
Word problems can be intimidating for even the most confident math students. The language is typically complicated and students often don't understand exactly what is being asked. To help our 5th graders tackle word problems and equations with ease, “math missionary” Greg Tang invited Severn to a Zoom workshop last week. The group used number relationships and visual models to make better sense of seemingly complicated math.
He recently announced an offer to help support schools and teachers with half-hour Zoom sessions. Lower School Math Specialist Ms. Stacy Shaener replied right away and Severn was lucky enough to be chosen. Ms. Shaener sent him word problems from our 5th-grade curriculum and Mr. Tang created several others with the same concepts. Our 5th graders had previously used the Tang Math website and were excited for the virtual face-to-face workshop.
Mr. Tang led the session as if everyone were in the same room. Sharing his screen with the class, students could see his tablet while also watching a video of him at home. Our students followed along with paper and pencil, periodically showing their work to Ms. Shaener and Mr. Tang. Watching the session was quite remarkable. You could see our students’ faces light up with “ah-ha!” moments of understanding.
Back to Basics
Mr. Tang began the session with an algebraic equation, but explained each element in terms of number relationships and groups. “X and Y are just secret numbers. So the first equation is just two secret numbers that add up to 32. X and Y are the parts, 32 is the whole.” Number relationships and part-to-whole are concepts our students began learning as early as kindergarten. Using this same approach with equations makes them more recognizable — easier to understand and solve!
Draw It Out
Mr. Tang moved on to use these same concepts with word problems. He suggested that students create their own visual models, gave tips for better comparisons, and walked them through each step. By the end of the session, those who were initially intimidated by word problems and equations were eager to try these strategies on their own.
Remote Learning, Unique Opportunities
Although Ms. Shaener has used Tang Math resources for years, his outreach during remote learning presented a unique opportunity for our students. Instead of following along with a video or completing a game on a website, they could interact with Mr. Tang in real time and ask questions. We are grateful to Mr. Tang for sharing his time and expertise with our community and to Ms. Shaener for finding new, fun and meaningful ways to teach math. And stay tuned...Mr. Tang will be back in May to work with our 4th-grade students!