Word problems are challenging for many people, not just kids. It is important that we teach some strategies for solving word problems so that our students will be able to solve problems that come up in the real world, not just the classroom.
What are word problems and how do we solve them?
Word problems are questions that are needing answers. They usually have some math element and require an understanding of the language being used and the questions being asked. Then the answer can be determined.
The first step is to figure out what questions are being asked. Once the questions are identified, the next step is to look at the problem and see what information has been provided. This information will help when looking for the answer.
Often it is suggested that we look for keywords in the problem. Although this can sometimes work, keywords are not always helpful because they could have a different meaning in this context.
Many word problems have more than one step. If we look at the problem and start with what we know and what we want to find out, this will help us to figure out the steps.
Introducing word problems
When introducing word problems, keep them simple. Start with simple, one step problems that require basic addition or subtraction. Once kids understand the process, you can make them more complex. Muti-step word problems will require lots more practice. It is important to understand how to use the information given and the questions being asked in order to figure out the different steps to take. Start with small numbers and only a couple of steps and gradually increase the size of the numbers and steps. Differentiation will be key as some children will require more practice to be able to solve the problems. By using the same model with smaller numbers and fewer steps, everyone will have the chance to be successful. Don't forget to provide opportunities for those that need more of a challenge as well.
I have found that practical applications help. If kids have a reason to learn something and you can relate it to something in their world, they are more likely to "get it". I created a set of money word problems for my students when we were creating our money lessons unit. You can check it out here if you want to see more.
I was tutoring a young girl in French and we created a menu and some task cards together. I translated it into English as well. If you would like a copy of the English version, click the image below.
There you have some of my thoughts and suggestions for helping your students with word problems. If you have some other ideas or strategies that have worked well, let me know in the comments.
Don't forget to grab your free copy of the money word problems here.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.