Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Story Problems and our Math Cabinet

We added a new "thread" of math to Kal-El's life this week...story problems.  We certainly could have started these sooner but they are generally tucked in the back of each operation in the albums or even tucked in their own section period way at the back of the albums.  They are easy to forget.  Kal-El really likes the little books I make so I made him one to use for story problems and equation formats.  You could just as easily keep some graph paper in the school room and add pages to your child's math binder (or general work binder) as you need to.

I have different formats of story problems (word problems, math sentences, whatever it is fashionable to call them these days).  We are starting with the story problems included with the Karen Tyler course.  She made three sets for each operation.  This week we worked with a set that has the second addend missing.

Above is a photo of Kal-El's work in his little book. The number in red is the missing addend.  My husband has always loved to ask the boys verbal story problems at mealtimes so these were super easy for him.  He thought it was kind of silly to write anything down.  I explained that the work wasn't to get the answer but to discover the equation.

I also have sets of more advanced story problems from Montessori for Everyone.  I organized all of our story problems by operation, divided them up into "sets" and put each "set" in approximate order of increasing difficulty.  They are labelled "level one," "level two," and so on.  Giving the boys the ability to see that there is work ahead of them and the excitement of "reaching a new level" are two things that help maintain motivation and a view of the "big picture" in our homeschool environment.

I was able to sneak many of the story problems into our math cabinet.  There is also a basket of story problems next to the cabinet.  Not only did I run out of room, but the Karen Tyler story problems were too large to fit in the cabinet drawers.  It has occurred to me that I haven't really shown you our math cabinet (you are all long overdue for a new school room tour) so here it is...

The math cabinet is on the bottom shelf of one of our bookshelves. You can see the story problem basket to the side. The basket has all of the early story problem sets in envelopes as well as special types of story problems (money, measurement, fractions).

I know some of you want the nitty gritty on what's in the cabinet so enjoy this close-up!

Starting from the top, always moving left to right...

First Row:  The first four drawers are loose equations separated by operation for use with the memorization boards. The last drawer on the right is a drawer full of loose equations with multiple single-digit addends to use with the bead bars.

Second Row from top:  Story problems for each operation, level two

Third Row from top:  Story problems for each operation, level two

Fourth Row from top:  These are all equation format works such as parentheses in various positions.

Each of the four larger drawers are fitted with a divider.  These contain prewritten four-digit equations on stamp game paper from the Montessori Print Shop that I can use with any of the materials when we  don't want to think of our own equation.  They are divided in each drawer according to whether the equation is static or dynamic.  They look like this (image from Montessori Print Shop):

Nestled between the larger drawers are some odds and ends that help us out with math from time to time:  dice, blank tickets (for writing numbers, equations, whatever we might need), and little flat wooden people (sometimes fun for division or multiplication work).

I have similar cabinets for fractions and geometry.  I try not to use drawers to store materials that will be worked with once and moved on from.  Rather, I try to store items there that will be used in an ongoing way.  I don't know if the story problems fit this criteria yet or not.  Thus far Kal-El does a whole packet in a sitting.  I find it is better for space considerations to store single-use packets in a basket of envelopes rather than in hardware drawers.


  1. This is so neat! What kind of binding system do you have? I need one, and I need one bad!! I am going to put this system in use in our homeschool. This is just what the kids need.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I love how carefully you think things through to make them work for your family :)

    I have to admit, over the years, I've been fighting this fascination with plastic stackable drawers and hardware drawers and tackleboxes - I hold myself off for YEARS before allowing myself to purchase just ONE time.

    Your blog, sometimes, like right now, is not helping that potential addiction ;) You're feeding it! ;)

  3. Have you seen these lovely story problems at Helpful Garden: http://thehelpfulgarden.blogspot.com/2013/01/math-sentences-for-beginners.html

  4. Thank you Veronica! I did NOT see those and I think Me Too would enjoy having some just for himself.

  5. Discovering Montessori,

    The comb binding machine is in my Amazon store along with some of my comments on the different models. The link to the store is up under the header and the category you need in the store is "DIY Montessori Tools." LOVE my comb binder...I use it a lot this year.

  6. "Jessica....Jessica....this is your subconscious speaking....go buy hardware drawers...."

  7. Yep. Loud and clear ;) (Legoboy can't figure out why this is funny!)