Teachers in four schools recently tried a mathematics and language comprehension strategy called 3-Reads to help their PreK-2nd grade students make sense of a problem before they set out to solve it. This was part of our partnership with Big Shoulders, which develops classroom teachers as math leaders in Chicago’s Catholic schools.

The 3-Reads strategy begins with a problem stem. A problem stem is a mathematical situation without any question to answer. This postpones finding a solution until students make sense of the context, clarify any tricky language, and make connections between the known quantities. To do this, the teacher reads the problem situation three times, each time with a particular focus.

- The first time, the goal is to comprehend what’s happening. The teacher may ask how they would describe the situation in their own words? Can they draw a picture? Can they act it out?
- The second time, the goal is to comprehend the mathematical information. This introduces the numbers but does not pose any questions. At this point students may make a class list of all the quantities and their units, or perhaps make observations about relationships between quantities.
- The third time, the goal is to come up with all the possible mathematical questions. At this point the problem to solve becomes clear.

**Read 1:**“There were some elves at St. Thomas the Apostle. There were some elves at Maggie Daley Park and there were some elves at the zoo.”

**Read 2:**“There were 15 elves in Chicago. 4 elves were at St. Thomas the Apostle. 7 elves were at Maggie Daley Park and the rest of the elves were at the zoo.”

**Read 3:**“There were 15 elves in Chicago. 4 elves were at St. Thomas the Apostle. 7 were elves at Maggie Daley Park and the rest of the elves were at the zoo. How many elves were at the zoo?”

**More Resources on the 3-Reads Protocol:**

- The 3-Read Protocol – SFUSD Mathematics Department
- Strategy Showcase: 3 Reads – Mister, Is This Right? Blog
- Using a “three reads” strategy to launch the four phases of problem solving – Cue Think

## Why is this important?

Too often, students fail to comprehend the story behind the math problem and struggle to find reasonable solutions. Using problem stems and the 3-Read strategy puts the emphasis on making sense first before making any computations. When children get in the habit of coming up with their own mathematical question, they are more likely to persevere to solve them.

### Common Core Alignment

Operations and Algebraic Thinking More

## Kristen

March 13, 2018 at 10:58am“A problem stem is a mathematical situation without any question to answer. This postpones finding a solution until students make sense of the context, clarify any tricky language, and make connections between the known quantities.”

I really like this. Too often, emphasis is placed on the result and the “correct” method of solving rather than making sure students understand the how and why of math problems. Thank you for sharing this process!