Who would have thought Queenie’s claim that Arthur fell down the stairs would help students dissect word problems. Or that the case of the Lunchroom Murder could train students to become astute observers when problem solving.
I’m talking about using elements from Hillcock’s Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12, to develop mathematical practice #3: construct a viable argument and critique the reasoning of others. The book is an English teacher’s bible and this section (beginning on page 36) may help your students become better problem solvers.
The goal is for students to apply claim, evidence, and rules when constructing a math argument. After two-three lessons using crime scene investigations (taught either in math or language arts), students apply the skill when solving problems.
After modeling few crime scene examples, it was time to link this skill to math. So I gave this handout showing how to construct a similar argument in math. A second example has some elements missing so the students need to complete the missing sections. Then I gave a series of word problems for additional practice.
Now that you know what the heck I’m talking about, here’s the road I took with the students.
Before jumping right in with the math connection, I handed out the Slip-or-Trip-Lesson. We read it as a class, discussed the evidence, and learned how rules support the evidence when making a claim.
After listing the evidence and rules to support our claim we drafted a police report (Slip-or-Trip-Crime-Scene-Evidence).
Next it was time for students to work independently or in small groups. They developed their claim, evidence, and rules skills on the The-Lunchroom-Murder task.
Finally students linked the crime scene investigations with claim and evidence using Constructing-a-Viable-Argument-in-Math document.
If you give this a try please let me know if it works for you and your students. I think the process not only enhances reasoning skills it helps students to articulate their thought process.
UPDATED 6/28/16 and slightly revised to include direct links to documents.
Additional pre-algebra problems not explicitly referencing claim, evidence and reasoning are in the determining importance file.