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Source: Middle School Journal, Vol. 31, No. 1 (September 1999), pp. 48-54

Published by: Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE)

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23043256

Accessed: 26-11-2016 01:31 UTC

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MSJ

Problem Solving in the Middle Grades

Nancy Armstrong Melser & Annette Ricks Leitze

hanging society and expanding technol arts then use that enthusiasm and creativity to further

The use of children's literature in the mathematics

dle school teachers to teach additional

content in their classrooms. Despite the

increasing demands, most school dis and enhances both language arts and mathematical

tricts have not increased the length of problem-solving instruction. The language arts activities

the school day nor the number of days in the school serve as a springboard for problem solving. The mathe

year. This creates quite a dilemma for teachers: Given matical problem-solving activities build upon and rein

the same number of student contact hours each week,

While those same teachers are struggling with how story for additional information that is necessary to

to teach all of the necessary content, they also are strug solve the problem. In addition, this coordination of lan

gling with another dilemmateaching mathematics. guage arts and mathematics helps to open students'

Some middle school teachers even admit that they do eyes to the world of mathematical thinking that sur

not like math or that they are "no good at math." Yet, rounds everyday storybook characters, thereby making

many of them are required to teach middle level math mathematics seem more relevant to their lives.

ematics skills. To make matters worse, one of the most

dreaded parts of the middle school mathematics cur National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the

riculum is problem solving. Those two little words National Council of Teachers of English both support

problem solvingstrike terror in the hearts of many stu language-intensive mathematics instruction. According

dents and adults. Unfortunately for students, a teacher's to Charlesworth & Lind (1995), "the whole language

distaste for mathematics is frequently, and perhaps philosophy and the whole language approach to com

unknowingly, transferred to the students, thereby com munication are major elements in the integrated math

pleting the viscous cycle.

these dilemmas is by connecting language arts and

same fifth and sixth grade middle school teachers who Selecting a book

struggle with mathematical problem-solving activities,

experience pure delight in reading and language arts lessons, several factors must be taken into considera

activities. By integrating language arts and mathematical tion when planning the lessons. One of the factors cru

problem solving, we believe we can successfully harness cial to a successful lesson is the selection of an appro

a teacher's enthusiasm for and creativity in the language priate literature book. Appropriate literature books

Nancy Armstrong Melser is an assistant professor of elementary education at Ball State University, Muncie,

Indiana.

Annette Ricks Leitze is an associate professor of mathematical sciences at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

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ning readers and full-length novels. Due to space con

How you structure a problem-solving lesson will

guage arts and problem-solving lessons is The Three

Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, written by Eugene

Trivizas and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. This story

book is a fractured fairy tale where the wolves repeated

mathematical problem solving and language arts

include mysteries, fantasies, or humorous books.

big bad pig to a big good pig and all four characters live

instruction.

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1987a, p. T-33)?

1987b, p. T-33)?

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Notice sim

and suddenly the wolf jumped out from behind a

the four of them decided to wash the windows in

left. Next the white wolf washed one half of the win

dows that were left. Finally, the pig washed the last

the various learning styles of students, while

Stephens, Goodnow, & Hoogeboom, 1987a, p.

T-33)?

generously contributed building materials to them.

house. Colleen had six jars of jams and jellies left for

1987a, p. T-35)?

1987a, p. T-35)?

the food pack down from the tree where they had

hung it, and ate one half of the food that was left.

4. Once the three wolves and the big good pig had

All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms

together in the nearby mountains. On the first and

Figure 1

food pack down from the tree where they had hung

it, and ate one-half of the food that was left. The next

they begin the trip with (adapted from Moretti,

T-33)?

Figure 2

There are four important things to keep in mind in

1st Home 2nd Home

and settings in the original problem to make the adapt

ed problem fit with the chosen literature book. Second,

same level of readability. Third, keep the numbers in the

matical difficulty. Fourth, the original source should be

attribution.

thinking about (a) the kinds of questions that could be

the kinds of questions to ask when students become

for the students. The next step is to read the book alo

the book.

If possible we recommend that you organize your

day so that you may teach the language arts lesson and

Anderson and Lapp (1992), there are four ways that chil

and characterization?

the students, you will need to begin by teaching any

Realistic? Fanciful? What gives the author away?

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Figure 3

Old story

New story

sis of setting. For analyzing the setting, the students can

mine the setting's effects on the characters and actions.

3 Pigs

3 Wolves

Bad wolf

Bad pig

ments and should be placed in the overlapping section

4. Analysis of the story pattern: What is the plot? Who

By using graphic organizers as modeled in the fol

lowing sections, teachers can address the various learn

effects of setting on a story. For example, how did the

story? How did this compare with the final setting? For

Based on the characters from The Three Little

(Figure 1).

As the students create the web of actions and feel

wolves feel when the first house was blown away? How

did the pig feel about the same situation? What did the

wolves value in the story? Was this the same thing that

home? By creating the web and adding the characters'

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Figure 4

them in chronological order through a story map (Figure

given in the problem, (see Figure 5)

Students using this strategy will want to begin by

drawing a circle to represent all of the windows in the

exactly how many windows this part of the graph repre

Problem-solving lesson

Before

+ 60 = 120.

such as work backward, make a table, act it out, and so

forth.

During

While students are working on their solutions, your

say they are finished, you will want to be sure they have

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Figure 5

In reality, there are numerous ways to achieve a correct

dents when there is more than one correct solution.

Closing Thoughts

Connecting language arts and mathematics can be

guage arts and mathematical problem solving to build

Using the same picture book for both language arts and

learning strategies in language arts and mathematics.

References

Anderson, P. S., & Lapp, D. (1992). Language skills in elementary

education. (5th ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Another situation you may face as students finish is

in front of you, asking "Is this right? Is this right? Is this

questions. Even if the solution is 100% correct, you do

Instead, further stimulate students' thinking by requir

ing them to answer one or more of the following:

be correct?

other group agrees with you.

why & how. Palo Alto, CA: Dale Seymour.

Charlesworth, R., & Lind, K. K. (1995). Whole language and primary

standards. In S. C. Raines (Ed.), Whole language arross the cur

riculum (pp.156-178). New York: Teachers College Press.

Gailey, S. K. (1993). The mathematics-children's-literature connec

tion. Teaching Children Mathematics, 40,258-261

Leitze, A. R. ( 1996). Connecting problem-solving and literature in

47(2), 3-7.

dren's literature. Teaching Children Mathematics, 3, 398-406.

Jersey: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

After

Part of the wholeclass discussion should include show

ing or sharing individual and group solutions, relating

Moretti, G., Stephens, M., Goodnow, J., & Hoogeboom, S. (1987a).

The problem solver 5. Sunnyvale, CA: Creative Publications.

The problem solver 6. Sunnyvale, CA: Creative Publications.

features of the activity (Charles & Lester, 1982). Ideally,

we would like for the groups to reach a consensus about

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