My Annual Observation: A Math Problem Solving Lesson

By Victoria Jasztal on December 3, 2009

Recently, I posted the lesson plans for my annual observation, which addressed problem solving in math. It was an incredibly successful observation, perhaps my most successful in my six years of teaching.

Starting out the lesson, I felt incredibly relaxed, even though sometimes I consider math to be my nemesis. Making real-life connections with my students helped them to understand the importance of the lesson. From there, sharing examples and non-examples guided my students to improve the quality of their problem solving explanations. Most importantly, having the students create their own multiple choice problems addressed the area of synthesis in Bloom's Taxonomy.

Having the students explain their reasoning to one another in small groups opened many doors for a thought-provoking class discussion at the end of the lesson. When I asked my students what they had learned from the lesson, their responses were:


"I was able to be a student teacher to those in my group who did not understand the problem."

"I was able to see others' pictures and understand new ways to solve problems."

As promised, I am sharing some photos of student work. 

Selective highlighting:


Students working together to solve problems:


Student solutions for problems I printed out (problems taken from ThinkLink and FCAT practice):




Students writing out their own multiple choice questions:










A final caveat: Never underestimate the power of intermediate students!


Hi Victoria,

Your lesson sounds interesting. I wanted to check out your lesson. I', always looking for new ways to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in math. Where was it posted?


Hi, Thanks for sharing the ThinkLink, I have found it useful and have shared it with my fellows. The Algebraic expressions and geometry problems are fabulous. I was looking for help and you have made a timely post:) Thank you again

... Thank you very much. ThinkLink is an immensely helpful resource. Discovery Education added some new features for teachers to analyze the data from the tests this year that is really impressing me. I am excited to review the test with my students and pinpoint exactly what they are not understanding as much as other math/science concepts. - Victoria

Sounds like you had a great lesson. My principal read my post today and wanted to come observe me, too! I like how you have designed the glue it to have a designated space for a picture and explanation. It reinforces using multiple strategies to solve a problem. What is ThinkLink?

... Thank you, Melissa! I want to definitely continue reading your blog- you are truly doing an excellent job. ThinkLink is basically a test students take that is published by Discovery Education. If you go to, you can learn about it, though your school/district would have to purchase it with a license. The resources are great, though! It shows the exact problems students got incorrect on the test in .pdf format and links to related resources. On the page that has your students' results, Number Sense, Measurement, Data, Algebraic Expression and Geometry problems are put together so you know whether your students excel or need to improve in a certain area.

Thank you so much for writing me!


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