Today I’m sharing a fun problem solving activity for first and second grade. My incoming second grader loved it!
In my ebook, Top 10 Secrets to Great Teaching, I wrote about the importance of making math more than computation. To help our children understand math concepts, they need more than worksheets and a list of facts to solve. They also need opportunities to solve problems.
That’s why I created this free problem solving activity. I used our red, blue, green, and yellow counting bears, but you could use any manipulative in those colors. Even scraps of colored construction paper would work! You can also use the printable paper bears in the free download at the end of this post.
Problem solving with bear counters
I created a set of twenty problem solving cards. Then I printed them, cut them apart, punched a hole in the upper left corner, and put them together with a metal ring.
Here are some sample cards. Some are easy, like this one:
You have 6 bears. 3 are red. The number of red and blue bears is equal. How many bears do you have of each color?
Some are a little harder:
You have 9 bears. The first, last, and middle bears are red. You have a set of three yellow bears after the first bear. The rest of the bears are green. Put your bears in order.
And some will really make your child think!
You have 10 bears. You have an odd number of green bears. You have 1 yellow bear and 1 red bear. Your number of blue bears is one more than the total number of green and yellow bears. What bears do you have?
When you print front to back (flipping on the short edge), you’ll find the answers are right on the back. Perfect for self-checking!
My Seven loved these, and it was fun to watch her think and work out the problems. Some of the problems were easy, but others really challenged her.
Tips for helping your child solve these problems:
- If your child is confused and unsure what to do, ask, “What do you know?” It may be that you will need all four colors. If so, get out one of each color; you know you’ll need at least that much.
- Have your child start from the beginning. “Let’s go back and read the clues again.” Stop to check your work after each clue.
- Encourage your child to use whatever strategy works for her. She might use her fingers, think in her head, or make a model of the answer with her bears.
- Before your child flips the card to check her answer, have her read each clue one final time to make sure that she solved the problem correctly.
How to use these cards:
- They’d work great as a classroom center. Since they’re self checking, children can work without your constant intervention.
- These would be a great homeschooling math activity for when you are teaching another child.
- If you’re like me, and neither a teacher nor full-time homeschooler, pull these out after school for some enrichment.
- Use these as an extension in the classroom for children who breeze through their math work.
Print on card stock (so you can’t see the answer through the card), and be sure to print front to back so that it flips on the short edge. Enjoy!
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