Strategies for Empowering Students


  • To encourage students to use their critical thinking skills
  • To help students better understand math concepts
  • To help students see the relationships among reading, writing, and thinking skills

  • Use of metacognitive skills
  • Use of critical thinking skills
  • Use of problem solving concepts
Integration of Content/Subject Areas

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Social Studies
  • Science

Students will use the process of solving math problems as a foundation for enhancing reading, writing, and thinking skills. The teacher will write sample math problems on the board. Sample problems are provided (teacher and students can also contribute math problems to be solved).

Give students the option of working individually, in pairs, or in teams. They will solve a problem, then write a sentence or word story about the problem they solved. This will be done for each problem. Students will share their math sentences and stories with the class.


Tomas and June were walking down the street on their way home from school. As always, they had to pass the neighborhood drugstore. But today there was something different about the windows in the store. They were all decorated with beautiful red and white fancy cards. Tomas looked at June and said, "I did not realize that tomorrow is Valentines Day! I have to buy my mother a card, but I don't have enough money."

"How much money do you need?" June asked.

"The card I see costs two dollars and twenty-five cents, and I only have one dollar and twenty-five cents. I need another dollar."

"I have a dollar I can let you have," June said.

"Oh thank you," Tomas said happily. "I will pay you back when I get my allowance next week."

So Tomas added June's dollar to his dollar and twenty-five cents. Now he had enough to buy his mother the card for Valentines Day.

Sample Problems


  • How did students demonstrate their problem solving abilities?

  • How effective were the students in creating sentences or stories?

  • How did students demonstrate the use of their knowledge or experiences in writing their stories?

  • Did students exhibit good critical thinking skills? How?


Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.