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Do your students have trouble with word problems? 

I have a trick that is fun and educational!  Try Sloth Jacks! 

What are Sloth Jacks, do you say? 
Well, it is a new type of jumping jack that helps kids learn how to attack word problems!  

SHIP = Slow, Halt, Investigate, and Paint
The sloths that the kids will imitate are on board a ship.  The word ship is an important acronym:  Slow, Halt, Investigate, and Paint (SHIP)!  The purpose of this is to get the child to do the movement necessary in a full body way so that they can then do it mentally while seated and work the word problem.  It is a good idea to have the child first do jumping jacks in their normal way.  Afterwards, emphasize that you are going to show them a NEW way to do a jumping jack and they have to be very careful about it!  Do the sloth jack with the child!

DIRECTIONS FOR SLOTH JACKS
Here is how you do a sloth jack:

  1. Child stands up with hands at hips and feet apart.
  2. Child slowly moves arms up to above their head and moves their feet together. 
    This is Slow or S! The child says, “SLOW!”
  3. Child stops or halts!  This is Halt or H!  The child says, “HALT!”
  4. Child moves their head around demonstrating that they are Investigating or I.
    The child says, “INVESTIGATE!”
  5. Child takes a finger and pretends to make it into a paintbrush and paints or builds in the air. 
    The child says, “PAINT!”

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
Another way to look at it is this: Imagine a sloth.  What is a sloth noted for?  Moving slowly!  He also has a stop sign and a magnifying glass!  He halts/stops where?  At every period, exclamation point, and question mark!  Then the sloth investigates what was just said with his magnifying glass!!  Then the sloth paints (or draws) what happened! 

NOTE: Some phrases or sentences might be there to trick the student or just be nonsense!  The student needs to be careful to not get tricked or fooled!  The student has to underline key words and connect key words to important numbers in the problem.  

What we spelled out was SHIP, a ship run by sloths! 
The sloths have stop signs and magnifying glasses.  

So the Sloths have their pirate ship, but the sloths are a bunch of lazies.  

They constantly run into rocks, sandbars, and other ships! 
Their friends, the dolphin and the Kraken, help them out with repairs!  

Here is your word problem:  

There are three lazy sloths onboard the pirate ship.  The dolphin has 9 nails.  The Kraken has 3 hammers and 3 boards.  The lazy sloths ran into a sandbar, a rock, and a pier.  They have three holes in their ship now!  Every hole gets one board and two nails.  How many nails are left over once the ship is repaired?  How many nails will be needed?  If the Kraken repairs all the holes at the same time, how many hammers will he use?

Here is how you solve it the Sloth Jack way! 

Read slowly: There are three lazy sloths onboard the pirate ship. 
Period alert, halt!  Investigate and paint! 

Read slowly! The dolphin has 9 nails. Period alert, halt! Investigate and paint!

 Read slowly! The Kraken has 3 hammers and 3 boards.  Period alert, halt!  Investigate and paint!  

Read slowly! The lazy sloths ran into a sandbar, a rock, and a pier.
Period alert, halt! Investigate and paint! Is this important?  No! Draw a line through it!

Read slowly! They have three holes in their ship!  Exclamation mark alert, halt! 
Investigate and paint! 

1 2 3 holes

Read slowly! Every hole gets one board and two nails. Period alert, halt! Investigate and paint! 

1 2 3 boards (all boards), 1 2 3 4 5 6 nails out of 9 nails! 

Read slowly! How many nails are left over? Question mark alert, halt! Investigate and paint!  

Kraken had 9 nails.  6 were used.  There are 3 left over because 9-6=3.

1 2 3 4 5 6  used       7 8 9 left over

Read slowly! How many nails will be needed? 
Question mark alert, halt! Investigate and paint! 6 nails used!

Read slowly! If the Kraken repairs all the holes at the same time, how many hammers will he use? Question mark alert, halt! Investigate and paint!

3 hammers!

I restate this below in the screenshot. 

Before moving on, have the child do another sloth jack!  

Eventually have students build their own word problem and have them use the sloth jack method!


Rosemarie Colon is a Math Coach at The Academy Virtual. She received the Coach Award in December 2020 for superior engagement, team spirit, and teaching with great heart. She served as a keynote speaker for a Parent Info Session about “Dyslexia – A Mother’s Journey.” You can hear more about her story in this short video here.

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