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 harpadzo Joined: Feb 2017 Posts: 26 New Member

Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 26
New Member
For Math Teachers
02-22-2017, 10:52 PM
 #1

Students fear and hate word problems. What method or technique do you currently use to help students with word problems?

 Lakeside Joined: Oct 2009 Posts: 4,868 Senior Member
Lakeside

Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 4,868
Senior Member
It's the translating.
02-23-2017, 03:02 AM
 #2

I'm working mostly in early childhood this year, so I deal with this problem more as a mom than as a teacher, but...

I can tell you that word problems frustrate kids because they feel their skills are not showing through. My own son has told me flat out "I can do the math, Mom, it's the language I don't understand!" He gets lost trying to figure out what exactly the problem is asking, and feels like grade is not acurately reflecting his actual math skills.

Ways to help are:

Emphasize early that math is a language, just like English or Spanish, and practice translating it in lower-pressure situations. Remind them that they've been doing this translating from the first time they used this symbol: + to mean "plus," and that they can do it.

When introducing new word problems, translate some together, on the board as you "think out loud," or in small groups, or whatever you think your class will respond to.

Give them some personally-written word problems. Use names from your class and things in the students' actual lives. It helps to have this transition step that means a little more to them than typical textbook problems.

Have them make up word problems to go with computations you set. It helps some kids to kind of run the process backwards.

 lisa53 Joined: Apr 2015 Posts: 5,648 Senior Member
lisa53

Joined: Apr 2015
Posts: 5,648
Senior Member

02-23-2017, 06:07 AM
 #3

I teach students to unpack the question. They begin by underlining key words and circling key quantities. Key words give clues about the mathematical operations they need to do: total, net, rate, etc.

Next I have them identify known quantities and list them. I have them also identify the quantity they are solving for--the unknown.

A diagram is often helpful (for example, in the case of trains going in particular directions, or finding a volume or area, or some other physical thing). Diagrams must be labeled.

A table of information is useful, especially if information needs to be graphed or if it is necessary to identify a pattern in data.

Finally I have them plan a strategy to solve the problem. What equations or steps must they take?

I overtly grade their attention to these steps. If I have students who like to skip these steps and just try to make the numbers go together in some easy way, I sometimes have them just do the pre-solving steps and grade those, without actually having them find the answer. I make it very clear to students that process trumps producing the answer. If you can't do the process, then as the problems get harder you will have great difficulty producing a correct answer consistently.

 harpadzo Joined: Feb 2017 Posts: 26 New Member

Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 26
New Member
Applications
02-23-2017, 12:12 PM
 #4

I agree that learning the necessary steps makes all the difference. Language barrier is a huge disconnect when it comes to solving word problems aka applications. I am not a teacher. I am a former NYC sub.

I never had trouble understanding the concepts of mathematics. I think it is my only true blessing.

 nmanciero14 Joined: Mar 2017 Posts: 1 New Member
nmanciero14

Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 1
New Member
Classroom Ideas and Online Resources
03-21-2017, 02:56 PM
 #5

I am an 8th grade math teacher and I find that word problems are something that students struggle with across the board.

In my classroom I usually start by giving my students the word problems and the equations they can use to solve them. We discuss how the equations are constructed and what key words within the problem can help guide their construction. I provide a graphic organizer where my students can group words that mean the same thing. For example the words sum, add, plus, and combine all mean to add the terms or variables together. I find that this helps with the comprehension and over time the students learn the language and no longer have to reference the organizer.

As a transition between giving my students the equations and having them write their own I find that giving partial equations with blank boxes for the students to fill in also helps. It's the next step to making sense of the problem and leads to better synthesis of the information.

Good luck, and please let me know how it works out.

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High School