Math anxiety affects many people, both male and female. I often see students freeze when they are presented with new material or word problems in math, unable to use their own resources to attack a problem. In order to help students overcome the fear of solving multi-step word problems, I had my students work with a partner using a Kagan strategy known as Rally Coach. This structure is often used to help students practice new concepts with a partner, whereas one partner is solving a problem and the other partner is working as a coach.
This week in math class, we used Rally Coach to review concepts we had been working on as we prepared for our End of Unit test. I presented students with word problems and asked them to go through our “Solving Word Problems” with their partner. Partner A (acting as the coach) was responsible for reading the steps, one at a time, to Partner B. Partner B had to complete only the step that was given to them, even if they already knew how to solve the problem. Then the students traded roles. We also used this same strategy while solving three-digit subtraction problems across zero. Both of these situations are common areas where students get confused with the steps needed to solve the problem and may become so hesitant that they then do not even know where they should begin.
This activity was helpful to both the student that was secure in solving word problems and the student that was perhaps struggling a bit. The more confident student had to slow down and wait for explicit directions before they could proceed. The students that were more hesitant in understanding the steps were given the opportunity to have the directions read to them one by one so they were walked through each problem they attempted to solve.
It was a pleasure to see all students working and solving problems with little or no frustration. If one student did not understand a step, his/her partner was there to guide them through it. With the written steps in front of them, everyone was successful!