Monday, July 15, 2013

Chapter 7: Determining Importance (BMC Book Study)

When trying to determine the importance, it can occur at three levels: word level, sentence level, idea level. The ultimate goal of learning is determining the importance at the idea level (201).

Mathematicians determine importance based on:
  • mathematical purpose.
  • background knowledge.
  • knowledge of text features and structures.
  • ideas shared during discussions (202).
Problem solving. Helping students to better understand the typical text structure of word problems may help them to identify the important facts necessary to comprehend and solve the problems (204). Think about it, in most instances it is not until students read the final question at the end do they know what parts of the text are essential to solving the problem. Skimming the text first to get to the question, and then rereading the text and deciding what is important and not important is a process that should be modeled and practiced.

Color coding with red and green is one way to draw visual attention to importance. Red indicates those pieces of information where one should STOP and take note since it is IMPORTANT information. Green indicates those pieces of information where one can let GO of the information since it is NOT essential to solving the problem. Might this strategy work with your students?

Laney Sammons gives the recommendation to pose a story problem with plenty of facts, but no questions (213). Ask students what information is important. It should quickly become clear that there is no basis to filter the information since there is no answer to find. Click on the image to grab your copy.

The next step is to give groups of students different questions to answer based on the story. Have each group identify what information is important in answering their given question on chart paper. Once all groups are done post the different charts. Do all the charts have the same information? Why or why not? Discuss how importance is determined by the purpose of the task. Below is a sampling of questions that could be used with the problem above. What other questions come to mind? Click on the image to grab your copy.

Helping students become more cognizant of how to filter out important information can help them to build mathematical comprehension and become stronger mathematical thinkers (224). How do you help students with determining importance? Link up or comment below. Don't forget to visit some of the other bloggers by clicking on the schedule. Stop by on July 19 to see what Sammons has to say about Synthesizing Information.


  1. Pam I love what you created. They are perfect for the strategy we are working on.

    2 Smart Wenches

  2. Thank you. Pairing problem solving with these strategies is exciting!

  3. Another great post! I love the idea of giving problem information but not the question. What a great way to get your students to focus on the information delivered in a problem and not jumping into attempting to find a solution. Thanks for the freebie and joining the book study. I have really enjoyed reading all your posts.
    Thinking of Teaching