To ensure that I obtain consistent and comparable data, each student will be presented with the same questions in the same order.  However, if I need to further clarify the student’s reasoning or obtain deeper insight into their solution, I may ask additional questions.


Prior to problem solving, I will introduce myself and give a brief overview of what I am doing.  I will then ask the student a few questions to “break the ice.” 

1.        What is your favorite subject in school?  Why?

2.        How do you feel about math?  What are your favorite and least favorite things to study in math?

3.        Have you ever used any of these tools on the table?  What did you use them for?


After the introductory questions, I will read the problem out loud while the student follows along.  Then, I will ask if the student understands the problem or has any questions.


If the problem is clear, I will tell the student that they are free to use any of the tools on the table to help solve the problem.  They may quit at any time, if they wish.  They will then work on the problem alone until they are finished or cannot go any farther.  While they are working, I will observe their progress and methods.


If the student is stuck, I will ask them questions to get them thinking in the right direction.

  1. Can you explain this problem in your own words?
  2. What are you supposed to find?  What is happening?
  3. Are there any words that might tell you what to do? 
  4. What are the important parts of the problem? How can you use these parts to find the answer?
  5. Will any of these tools on the table help you in this problem?


When the student can go no further or has solved the problem, I will have them walk me through each step of their problem-solving process.

  1. How did you start the problem?
  2. Will you guide me through each step that you took to solve the problem? 
  3. What made you choose that approach?
  4. What do you think were the important parts of the problem?  How did these parts relate to each other?


If necessary, I may ask additional questions for clarification or to probe deeper into the student’s methods.


At the end of the each problem, I will ask some wrap-up questions:

  1. What did you think about this problem?  Hard?  Easy?
  2. Have you ever seen a problem like this one before?  Where?


This process will be repeated for a total of three word problems, progressing from easiest to hardest.  Upon completion of the three problems, I will ask them some concluding questions:

  1. Have you ever heard of/used algebra?
  2. What is algebra?