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Those pesky word problems!

Posted by Mollie Shaw on

Kids get lost in the tangle of the words in those pesky word problems.  But word problems are powerful indicators of students' ability to understand the underlying concepts behind math questions.  Word problems make students into powerful problem solvers in engineering, physics, chemistry and in all industries that use mathematics. 

 Here are some steps for solving word problems:  Remember, the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning!

  1. Read aloud twice! Visualize the distances, amounts, quantities, relationships.
  2. Ask yourself and then answer (even write down): What will the answer look like?  Cups of flour?  Miles per hour?  Percentage?  What type of unit will the answer use? You will need to come back to this several times while calculating the answer.
  3. Next decide: What operation is needed to go from the information in the word problem to get to the answer? (There may be more than one!)
  4. This one is a little advanced:  Estimate the answer: Use simpler numeric terms to guess at a possible answer.   For example, what if you plugged in 10 instead of 9.45?  What is a ballpark answer going to be?  
  5. Set up problem and solve.

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