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Guidelines to Embed Solve It! in the Math Curriculum

Teachers ask, “I am required to follow a specific math curriculum. Can I still use Solve It!?” The answer is, “Yes, you can embed Solve It! in the math curriculum.”


Middle and secondary math teachers typically are required to follow a specific cur­riculum. As a result they adher to a mandated outline, schedule, or pacing guide. In other words, the math content—for instance, concepts, skills, vocabulary, and applications—is prescribed for each grade level or each math course. Teachers are required to follow the prescription. Consequently, teachers often are reluctant to do anything that appears to deviate from the required math curriculum.

Researchers confirmed this (Montague, Enders, and Dietz, 2014 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263916840_The_Effects_of_Cognitive_Strategy_Instruction_on_Math_Problem_Solving_of_Middle-School_Students_of_Varying_Ability). Solve It! complements the math curriculum. However, teachers who view Solve It! as a supplement or add-on are less likely to accept, value, or implement it. In other words, teachers are more likely to implement Solve It! if it is embedded in the school’s math curriculum. Moreover, teachers are more likely to use Solve It! when they view it as part of the instructional program.

This blog describes how to embed Solve It! in the math curriculum. The key is to use math word problems drawn directly from the required curriculum. Teachers then structure their instruction around those problems.

How to Embed Solve It! in the Math Curriculum

Most math textbooks include several lessons for teaching students how to solve math word problems. Embed Solve It! in the math curriculum by first substituting the Solve It! first three scripted lessons for the text ones. Just be sure to incorporate the Solve It! instructional practices, especially modeling and think aloud.

In addition, the key to embedding Solve It! in the math curriculum is to select the math word problems from the textbook. Following are two selection considerations.

Understand the Problem

Math word problems require prob­lem solvers to translate, transform, and manipulate linguistic and numerical information into a mathematical repre­sentation. This process is leads to an accurate solution. Consider this problem:

Find the area of a rectangle that is 7 feet long and 3 feet wide.

Although this problem contains words and requires a mathematical solution, it is not considered a math word prob­lem. Why? Because it simply gives directions. To complete this problem, the student only needs to recall the formula for finding the area of a rectangle and then do the math.

In contrast, math word problems require students to understand and rep­resent the information in the problem, develop an efficient plan to solve the problem, and then perform the math­ematical operations required to solve it. These are characteristics of math word problems. Compare the following problems with the previous one.

A store sells shirts for $13.50 each. On Saturday, it sold 93 shirts. This was 26 more than it had sold on Friday. How much did the store collect for all the shirts sold on both days?

The Simpson family received their monthly phone bill of $120. The number of minutes of phone calls for the month was 2,000 minutes. How much did they pay per minute?

Only problems like these latter two are considered appropriate for using the Solve It! process. The reason is that students are expected to use linguistic and numerical information to solve the problems.

Understand the Math Standard Represented in the Problem

After the initial three Solve It! lessons, students solve additional problems in practice lessons. Math word problems used during each weekly Solve It! practice lesson can correspond to the state standard or benchmark that has been targeted for that week. Keep in mind that the concepts and skills associated with the standard should be taught before introducing word problems that require application of these concepts and skills. Also, pay close attention to the number of steps it takes to solve the problem and match problems from the text to the Solve It! practice lesson accordingly.

In Summary

All versions of Solve It! can be embedded in the math curriculum.

Several versions of Solve It! ( https://www.exinn.net/solve-it/ ) include a tool for organizing math textbook problems. See the Solve It! versions: