Sunday, April 1, 2012

The "Problem of the Day"

The "Problem of the Day" is probably one of my favorite routines for the classroom!  I ended up starting this routine as prep work for the story problems that are on the Kindergarten IOWA test... and my kids just love it!

I know a lot of teachers do math journals with their kids, which is somewhat similar.  I have thought about doing those, but unfortunately the IOWA Test doesn't allow for students to use scrap paper to solve their math problems, so I use my problem of the day to focus on counting with our fingers.

(Obviously when I teach my addition and subtraction units, we do many more hands on activities, but this is a quick five minute review... or introduction!  I actually use the problem of the day with my class long before I teach my addition and subtraction units!)

Anyway... back to this quick routine!  First things first, download the free problem of the day set for April below!

Print them, laminate, and cut the paper into fourths.   I keep my problems organized by hole punching the corner of each card and using a binder ring to hold them together.

Every day, I just turn one page and read the next problem.

Each day, I also pick one student to be in the problem of the day.  I write each of the students' names on clothespins and keep them in a Ziploc bag.  I pull out one name per day and change the wording of the Problem of the Day to include that student's name.  I use the following poster to put the clips on for students that have already had a turn in the problem of the day. 

Once I pick a student to be in the problem, I read the problem and give the class a little bit of time to figure out the answer.

Then, I have the students turn to their partner (I have assigned partners in the classroom which change monthly.)  I tell the class this little poem:

(This helps avoid the students all saying "I don't have a partner!" when someone is absent or on the computer.)  I tell them to be sure that both their knees are touching - this also helps to make sure that they're looking at their partner and focused!

I'll pick a partner to go first (perhaps the partner with longer/shorter hair, or the partner who is taller/shorter).  That partner has to tell their partner the answer and explain their reasoning for it.  For example, "I know the answer is two because I started with five fingers up, then put three fingers back down." or "I know the answer is two because I started with five, then I counted backwards three numbers."

It really interesting to hear the kids reasoning behind their answer.  Then, I count backwards from five so the students finish up their answer.

Next: it's time to see who was listening!  I call on students to explain their partner's answer to me!  This really improves their listening skills and they love it!

I then repeat visa-versa and have the other partner explain their answer.

The kids just love this routine... they really love hearing their names in the story and sharing their answers/explanations with their partner.  And the best part... it really improved their listening and math skills and it made a major difference in my IOWA Test scores!!

If you want to download the April Problem of the Day Set for free, click here!


  1. Do you have anything for second grade?

    1. I teach kindergarten so unfortunately, I don't right now. But... if you let me know what skill you're working on I'll be more than happy to throw something together! Let me know!

  2. Your Problem of the Day is a great activity! Hope I can implement this in my classroom! Thank you for the freebie!

    1. I'm so glad you like it! It's very easy to implement... you just have to go over the routine for a few days! I had a parent walk in while we were doing it and the kids went on with all the routines like it was clockwork! The mom thought it was so cool!

  3. This sounds like a great activity. I'm looking forward to trying it in my class tomorrow! =)

    Thank you!

    1. I'm so glad you like it! Let me know how it goes with your class!

  4. I really like your problem of the day and hope to use the idea in my morning meeting in the fall.