Day 6: Launching problem solving with a think-aloud

I want the students to get used to solving group tasks and non routine problems. I also want to do more with reading instruction in math so I solicited our reading specialist to script a think-aloud for a specific task. I really didn’t solicit; she’s been encouraging the non-reading teachers to utilize her. So I did. It worked fabulously.

The task I chose was a  Basketball Camp task I found in Charlotte Danielson’s A Collection of Performance Tasks & Rubrics: Middle School Mathematics. Side bar: Amazon provides a wonderful preview of tasks when you “look inside”.  The task isn’t a mind bender, but there is a lot of information to consider. Take the train, or fly. Sign up for individual or group lessons.  Determine the possibilities then make your recommendation.


Precise, clear explanation. Lacks math calculations.


Difficult to follow.


Solution lacks clarity.

I let the students attempt the problem in groups before I did the think aloud. The six groups had some trouble getting started. Just what I wanted! After about 10-15 minutes two groups began to realize how to use the information. Another two then caught on. The fifth group barely made sense of the problem and the last group was completely paralyzed. They had no idea where to begin.

I posted the solutions around the room and the kids did a gallery walk noticing how the others attempted the problem, and if the solutions and work were understandable.


I then explained how I (really Sarah!) approached the problem.

think aloud

I thought this was a great way to launch problem solving.

The next time the students are given a group task we’ll review the expectations of collaborative work. But that’s another day.


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