Second Session with the DIMC Mentor Don

To recap, my Inquiry question for this year is: Would the everyday, explicit and rich teaching of mathematical language, coupled with step by step techniques of unpacking word problems, help my learners to better understand mathematical concepts, and better answer questions and explain how they got their answer?
 Last term  I did a lot of work around how we 'unpack' a word problem (essentially using the DIMC approach) and doing lots of learning around mathematical vocabulary. 

A recap of how I have been implementing this in my maths class with my learners: 

When looking at a word problem:

  1. What is the story about/ What do we know from the story? We have spoken about the word ‘context’ and what this means. With every question I have introduced to the children they have had to explain the context of it. 
  2. What are we trying to find out?
  3. Once the group is able to agree upon a way they may go about solving the problem they are given paper to being their working. 

We  made a Math Vocabulary word wall which we frequently refer to during maths time. Here is what it looks like .. we are adding to this wall daily.

Yesterday I had the DMIC mentor, Don come into my class to be alongside me as I taught a DMIC maths lesson to my learners. It was really really awesome to see how much my kids had improved since the last mentor session which was beginning of term 1. 

I noticed the learners:

- had more confidence knowing the language they were able to use in their groups
- were able to confidently know how to 'unpack' the question

At the beginning of the year the mere fact alone of having a word problem would scare them so much that they wouldn't even attempt it. It was so rewarding to see the kids being able to know that the first thing they needed to do was identity the context of the question, I even had some kids use the word 'context' which was awesome to see and hear. 

This was the question that I gave the kids:


I knew that the word that would trip them up would be discount. We discussed this word, a lot of the learners knew that it meant 'littler' or 'less' .. this word wasn't on the word wall so we added it to the vocabulary wall, under the 'SUBTRACT' section. 

The learners struggled to answer this question,  however, they were a lot better at having conversations in their groups. 

There was one group that came up with the answer. They did struggle to explain what they had done at each step. We broke this down as a class and talked about the LANGUAGE we would use.

For example: 

They started by going $1284 - $200 = $1084. A lot of the kids were saying, why did you take $200 away... We talked about how to explain we would say that we wanted to make the 240 into a number that was EASIER to subtract from $1284, we can count back in 100s so $1284, $1184, $1084. 

Then were then able to say .. we had 40 left over so we now needed to take 40 away from 1084, we can count back in tens so 1084, 1074, 1064, 1054, 1044. The answer is $1044. They were very clear in their instruction that there needed to be a dollar sign added to the answer otherwise it wouldn't be correct, as the context of the question involves the numbers in the form of $. This was an interesting learning curve as the boy who was recording the dollar sign put it AFTER the number and did the s the wrong way around, so we had  a learning discussion on how to correctly write this. 

Essentially what I am doing with the kids IS working, it is a slow process but it is so nice to see progress happening.


  1. I am interested to see your work with the language of maths. Often my students are capable solving equations but put into a context, they struggle with the language. Do you think the visual of the word wall helps with your discussions or is it more important to have the conversation about what the question is asking?


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