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Does anyone else think this is a bit much for a third grader? This is a weekly assignment that my son gets. No surprise that he got a 60 on it. His answer was " The answer is 5 because 15X7=105.


"There are 6 bookshelves in the classroom. Each bookshelf has room for 15 books. If Mrs. Smith has 100 books, how many books will not be able to fit on the shelves?


Not only do they have to answer this, but they are graded as follows: 6 points for answering in a complete sentence, repeating the question, 2 points for circling key words and math words and 2 points for showing work. They also have to explain how they got their answer. What ever happened to just getting the right answer and showing your work? 


Of course I can figure it out, but to explain how I got the answer would be a lot different than a third grader, since they are not able to think at the same level as an adult who is more proficient in math skills.


Did you notice how they put "how many books will NOT fit on the shelf....as to throw them off even more??! Is this really what is expected of a third grader these days? Seems like they just finished memorized simple adding and subtracting and are still working on memorizing times tables. Am I overreacting here, or is this ridiculous? 



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IMHO, they are trying to make kids apply math to the real world in a way to better teach it.  The answering in complete sentences and that mumbo jumbo is beginning prep for FCAT Writes which they will focus much more on in 4th grade.


Third grade is probably the MOST important grade for math.  If they fall behind in 3rd grade, they will be challenged.  I say this from experience with my son.  If I'd known then what I know now, I would have gotten him a tutor or even spent more time with him myself.  But he did fine on FCAT in 3rd grade, great in 4th, then horrible in 5th....go figure.  It catches up with them.


For this particular problem, he needs to remember there are only six bookshelves. 6x15=90 100-90=10 so 10 books would not fit on the shelves.  I always got my son to draw out stuff like this so he could better understand it.


Just do all you can to encourage him because this really is the make or break period for building the math skills he'll use throughout school.

Janisse, I like your idea about having them play teacher. That's great!


Good luck!

This is all about getting them ready for the FCAT in 5th grade. The math portion expects them to be able to reason and explain their answers. This is just the beginning of these kind of assignments. It will get more complicated over the next few years. Like some of the other responders said have them draw pictures, talk their way through the problem and then try to write the answer. 

Good luck because the rest of his school years will be centered around FCAT.


I do not have a child in school yet, he's in Pre-K but I think compared to 10-20 years ago alot of the work is more advanced.  I remember that you learned your ABC's 123's, colors, shapes and such in Kindergarten, now if you don't know it before hand your behind. 


I know math is important so we have already started learning simple addition and subtraction.  We play games with it and he loves it.  We play how many - as in if Daddy, mommy, you, Nana and Papaw are in the car how many - 5, if Daddy and mommy get out how many are left - 3 we do this with everything using simple math.  He thinks its a game and loves it - and is really good at it.  So hopefully by having him grasp this concept now, it will give him a better chance in the future. 


I know I sucked at word problems in school - really bad - I found the above suggestions about drawing it helped me more to visualize the problem.  The teachers hated it because I had a paper filled with train tracks and trains trying to figure out which train would get to point b quicker - but once I started having the visual I started improving.  My mind just works better that way.  It used to frustrate the teachers because they kept telling me to show my work and I was, just not in the way they wanted to see it. Oh well we all beat to our own drum...makes the world much more fun and interesting. 

Wait till he gets to 5th grade!!  I need to go back to school.  They are doing addition and subtraction of fractions.  Also need to find the common denominator and all that good stuff.  He's an ESE student and gets extra time to get his work done. Told his teacher we did not do this math till 7-8th grade and only covered it for a few weeks, had a test at the end and moved on.  For mid terms and final exams we briefly covered it to refresh and then gone.  I am glad right now he pretty much gets what needs to be done and I don't need to jump in and try to figure it out.  When I talked with the teacher she said if he has issues with the homework and I am stuck, they can go over it with him the next day to get it done.  Now we are at the point to send him to middle school or home school starting next year for 6th grade.  It's more of a safety issue with him than anything.  Will contact the school to see what kind of support they offer for him.
This is more math than in the past.  Dd was in 3rd grade six years ago and tea tables were to be learned over the summer in time for 4th grade.
We found 3rd grade to be the toughest and the most homework so far (our son is now in the 7th grade) and I believe its because of the importance of the FCAT in the 3rd grade.  But now, our son is doing more algebra that I never remember doing in the 7th grade!  Maybe 9th or 10th... and I am unable to help him, thank goodness for the computer!  They have some great math websites that give you a step-by-step instruction.

No, I don't think that problem is unreasonable for a 3rd grader.  If they had to do a hundred a night, yes that would be unreasonable, but a few a night would not be.  Having a page of problems like "2*3=__" is a start for basic skills, but that doesn't really happen in the real world.  Real life problems are word problems, and you have to be able to turn the words into an equation.  Understanding how to do this is even more important than memorizing tables since a calculator can multiply for you, but you have to figure out what to put into the calculator.

I like the twist of "not fit".  It teaches them to read carefully.

Math training should reflect the skills needed in the real world.

All that said, however, answering in a complete sentence is a waste of time.

Problems like this are basically a logic puzzle, a game.  People will pay good money for a book of puzzles to solve.  Math is just another logic game. If you can help the student look at the problems this way, it will be much more interesting for him or her.

Problem is, I didn't figure out the math-as-puzzle-or-game aspect (or, in my case, it's a language) until I was nearly 30.  My older son caught on right away.  My younger son, sadly, appears to take after me.  None of us are dim, but math certainly isn't my gift or my (gifted) younger son's.


If we'd had this type of math back in the dark ages when *I* was in 3rd grade, I honestly don't know what would have happened to me.  Luckily, back then it was working more on straight math problems rather than the word problem style.

I actually enjoy these kind of math problems.  My 3rd grader takes after his mom and does great at math (reading is a totally different ballgame :(   ).  He is in alpha for his math class and gets many of these type problems weekly.  I think math should be taught from a word-problem approach since that is what they are likely to encounter.  I always tell my own students that no one will ask you to solve the quadratic formula in your job but you may be asked to apply that formula to solve another problem.  It annoys me to hear students say that they are "good math students" yet they cannot solve word problems or apply what they have learned.


I also totally agree with PkD that being able to write an explanation in complete sentences is a total waste of time.  It annoys me that my son can "prove" how he solved the problem by writing a mathematical expression yet he is required to write in sentences or to draw out some "picture" to help solve it.  He actually does all the problems and then I make him go back to draw any required graphics (a waste of time but the teacher requires it).

Mine's in 3rd grade Alpha math too, and his "giftedness" is more toward language, but that's not an option (and an entirely different can of worms -- don't get me started, LOL).  That would be where some of my frustration comes from, likely.  He and I are both suffering a bit with this, although I zip my lips about my own suffering because I don't want him to get the mistaken impression that I don't support his teacher -- because I do support her, and like her as well -- and we just plow on through. 


From what I can figure, the multiple layers of problem solving that are required with the word problems sometimes get all mixed up in his brain, he skips steps, then the flail-fest commences.  And my own math disability (or whatever) doesn't help, because now I just "get it" and can't explain why.  Ugh.  I made it through college level calculus and statistics, but third grade math is going to be my undoing.


As for the writing out the explanation, I can see why it is valuable from some perspectives, but as a parent who's dealing with a narrow 90 minutes (deducting 30 minutes for food consumption) from when we're finally home from work and daycare until we reach Math Saturation Time, it gets a bit frustrating especially when it's nearing 8:00 p.m. and my son is reaching flailing-level with his "but I don't k-n-o-o-o-w-w-w!!!" torment.

I do not think it is too much to ask. I think it is very important for kids to see how math is used in real life applications. It is so much better than making a kid do work just "because you need to know this".


I see ups and downs of writing out the explanation. Do I think it is necessary to do every time - absolutely not. Do I think kids need to be able to express their work in full sentences - yes. As a teacher I would personally give partial credit if they could explain it but made a mathematical error. I know it seems silly to circle key words - but I would be willing to bet money that those who did not do that step also did not notice the "NOT" in the problem. It may seem like an unnecessary step but it is actually to help the kids make sure they are answering the question correctly. It is unfortunate but I also think that making students write out their work separates those students who actually know the work versus those students who know the work because the person they are sitting next to knows the work versus those students who have their parents do the work.

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