Monday, November 10, 2014

8 Critical Thinking Strategies for Math Word Problems!

Teaching kids to solve word problems means showing them a usable process. Word problems take a lot more thinking than a simple equation, no matter how advanced that equation might be. In fact, learning how to solve story problems means learning about critical thinking! Check out the steps below and see if they can help your students learn this vital skill. If you have other ideas to add…please add them in the comments section!!

Don't forget this strategy for solving problems! Working cooperatively adds security for unsure students, and helps students share (and learn new) strategies!

Clipart from Ron Leishman Digital Toonage

1. Read the problem….carefully. This seems obvious, but I've seen my own students just "skim" a problem and assume he/she knows what to do.

2. Write down the information in the problem.  Kids should jot down all of the given information in the problem.

3.  Decide what the problem is asking for. Knowing exactly what is being asked is the key to finding the answer. In my experience, when kids skip over this step and just give the assumed answer, they run into trouble. This is where critical thinking is really needed. Some story problems can be pretty confusing for some kids.

4. Get rid of excess information. Once kids know what the problem is asking of them, it's time to see if any "extra" information was given that is not needed. As kids get older, this happens in story problems more and more.

5. Take note if units of measurement are involved in the problem. Students may need to convert inches to feet, centimeters to meters and so on. If they miss this, the answer will be wrong.

6. Draw a picture. Many times, drawing a picture will help students visualize the problem and understand how to solve it.

7. Decide what math equation needs to be used to solve the problem. Is this a subtraction, multiplication or division problem? Knowing what needs to be done helps students know how to set up the equation.

8. Do the math and check the answer. Knowing how to check their own math problems is essential for students. Methods to check math equations might be a great thing to add to any math notebook.

How about some fun practice with word problems?

If you want a GREAT site that helps third grade and up think through word problems, this is the site you need. First students get the problem and try it on their own. When they click on the answer button, they get a video that walks them step by step through the process. Lots of problems and videos are provided. Love this one. It's great for remediation, or for extension. Lots of practice with multiple step word problems here too!

This game called "Monster Crossing" is a twist on the old Frogger game. Students have a choice of word problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division! This is a fun one!

This site from Mr. Nussbaum meets the common core for third grade math. It's also terrific for 4th and 5th grade review. It's a simple problem, then get the answer site.

If you want story problems in a game format, check out the games and activities on this site:

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