Once I felt the students had it down, we practiced it in a game of problem-solving relay. We talked about how this was where we were going to choose which strategy we were going to use.Students raced one another to see how quickly they could get down to the nitty-gritty of the word problems. We also discussed how this was where we were going to figure out what operation to use. (I actually went ahead and solved it here – which is the next step, too.) We talked specifically about thinking strategies.
Then, as I said above, we practiced in a variety of ways to make sure we knew exactly when to use them. Anyway, after I knew they had down the various strategies and when to use them, then we went into the actual problem-solving steps.
I wanted students to understand that when they see a story problem, it isn’t scary.
What if everyone's watching and he can't do it -- isn't it better not to try?
What if it works, but not the way everyone wants it to?
It comes up in ELA ("Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they’ve read.
This stresses critical thinking, , and analytical skills that are required for success in college, career and life."), but is inescapable in math. Eliminate the choices that don't fit your constraints (money, time, use, etc.) If there are several choices that seem to work, this will help you make the decision.
Of all the skills students learn in school, problem solving arguably is the most valuable and the hardest to learn.
Problem solving is fraught with uncertainty -- what if the student looks stupid as he tries?
Our job as teachers is to provide the skills necessary for them to make wise, effective decisions. It starts with a habit of inquiry in all classes -- math, language arts, history, science, any of them.
I constantly ask students questions, get them to think and evaluate, provide evidence that supports process as well as product.