Lesson Plan

Working problems backwards - #WithMathICan

Using gears, students will be able to solve math problems backwards. Addition, subtraction, positive and negative numbers
James T.
Classroom teacher
Saint Benedict Prep, Chicago, Illinois
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies

Students will be excited to play this puzzling jail breaker game! While playing , student will be forced to work simple math problems backwards, eventually leading into harder and more complex problems where students will need to be able to solve smaller problems within larger ones.  By learning from others via discussion and   recording those discoveries as they are found, a growth mindset is encouraged by highlighting the construction of knowledge as a group.

Grades 2 – 6
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

I began by introducing  the games storyline. I would have the game projected on a smart board, and i would have students first instruct me on what to do, leading into them coming up to the board and completing the level themselves. I would do maybe the first few levels and then have them continue their work independently

  • Could we use subtraction to complete this level? Would it be a better way than using addition? Why? Why not?
  • Can anyone give me a different way to solve this problem?


2 Whole group practice

Before I had students finish the level I would write levels the equation on the board. For example;

________ +  __________ = 10

  • What numbers can we add together to equal 10?
  • Does anyone have another idea of how we can solve this problem
  • What even/odd number can we add together to equal 10

After the first couple of levels, i would have the students discover the equation before heading to the board. Having students work equations backwards is a great way for them to check their work


3 Individual Practice/Small group

Bell ringers - I would begin the class with a quick couple of questions that students would turn in after the morning announcements.

Have word problems that utilize working backwards for example. 

  1. Jack walked from Santa Clara to Palo Alto. It took 1 hour 25 minutes to walk from Santa Clara to Los Altos. Then it took 25 minutes to walk from Los Altos to Palo Alto. He arrived in Palo Alto at 2:45 P.M. At what time did he leave Santa Clara?
Student Instructions

Complete the bell ringer and turn it in once you are finished

4 Wrap up

Activity: Assessing

Assess student learning by reviewing the bell ringers. Once students complete the bell ringers choose 3 (1 good 2 with common errors) and project them (hiding the names of the students). Have the students view and reflect on the students work. 

  • What do I like about this?
  • What would I change about this?
  • How can we improve this answer
  • How could we solve this problem using a different method?
  • After viewing other students work, which method is the best for find our answer

Afterwards issue out the students bell ringers again and have them improve their answer and reasoning.