I wrote Tyrannosaurus Math (reviewed this week at Miss Rhumpius) before discovering Susan Gerofsky’s A Man Left Albuquerque Heading East, (mentioned in an earlier post). But it confirmed what I already knew: kids crave word problems with appealing imagery.
As part of her research Gerofsky asked a group of 5th and 6th graders to discuss three similar story problems in which Mike, Susanne or Sandra put some tomatoes, plums and apples into a number of bags or cartons.
“It would be better if it was about rocket blasters,” one child said.
“You’d have a better question, like if it’s candy,” said another. Sometimes you think of that when you solve a problem. Then when you go home you want to have candy. So your mouth just makes you do the question.”
Publishers of math books for the young get it. A search for “counting books” on Amazon turns up books with chocolate, icky bugs, crocodiles, fairy tale characters and more. Why shouldn’t older children get equal treatment? Why not serve them word problems with high interest topics?
In honor of Poetry Friday:
Max came upon five wild beasts,
They had fur, and scales and feathers,
Two terrible eyes shone from each,
How many eyes all together?
In my next post, a lesson on getting children to write their own jazzy word problems. Let the rumpus begin!