Her question to me was, “Why wouldn’t you just rewrite the problem to focus on the appropriate concept?” She suggested that having students restate the problem in their own words without numbers would have them demonstrate that they know what is being asked of them.
Here is the original problem:
The Beebo bird lives in two places in the world. Some live in Texas and some live in Greece. Greek Beebos are about 20 inches high and weigh around seven pounds. There are about thirty-nine thousand Greek Beebos. The total weight of all the beebos in the world is 500,000 pounds. How much do the Texas Beebos weigh altogether?
Here is her suggested rewrite without numbers:
There are only two types of Beebos in the world, Greek and Texan. I know the weight of one Greek Beebo and I know how many Greek Beebos there are in the world. I need to find out how much the Texan Beebos weigh altogether.
On the outset, this seems great. If your kid does this:
It’s more likely your student will do this (especially if they’re struggling or you’re a hired tutor):
Notice the struggle and strain? And notice that both videos show the same thing – the “student” (me) just reading the problem and replacing the numbers with “I know how much…”
Watch students carefully. Listen to their intonations, watch their faces, watch their bodies. Whether you’re in a classroom or one on one, watch! If they got it, you can see it. If their little foreheads are wrinkled and they are tense – stop. They don’t have it. They are guessing. Go back. Try something else.