Tuesday, January 19, 2016

End Word Problem Panic!

If there is one thing that can tie kids in a knot, it's word problems. You know there's a problem when you mention the term "word problem" and everyone in your class gets that "deer in headlights" look. It doesn't have to be that way. With some easy to follow steps, and a little practice, you can help your students cut word problems down to size.

The first thing to do is calm their fear. I told my students that a word problem is like a puzzle. All it takes is a few simple steps to cut them down to size, and solve the puzzle. Let's look at steps that can make those word problems super simple.

Steps for Making Word Problems Make Sense: 

1. Read the problem twice: don't skimp on this one! Many times people think they know what to do after reading it once, but when they read it again they find out they are mistaken. If students can restate the problem in their own words, that helps too.
    Teaching hint: I like to have students get into pairs once they have read the problem twice and discuss how to say it in their own words together. It only take a couple of minutes.

2. Dicide which sentence tells what the problem is asking you to figure out. Underline that sentence.

3. Decide what information in the problem will help you figure out the answer.
    Teaching hint: It's import for students to know how to disregard information that is thrown in there to trick them. It's also a necessary skill when taking standardized tests.

4. Dicide on a strategy to help you visualize the problem using only the needed information. Some strategies to consider are:  make a picture, make a table, guess and check, use logical reasoning, work backwards, find a pattern.
     Teaching hint: This is the step that doesn't use an equation. Instead it encourages students to see the problem in a different way to help them make sense of what is going on. There is a worksheet to use with your students below in google.drive.

5.  Write the equation.  Are there any key words in the question that give you a clue what operation to use?
      Teaching hint: This is a good time to display an anchor chart with key math phrases that give students a clud about what to do. Include words such as:
a.  addition: combine, together, total, plus, altogether, increase
b. subtraction: difference, decrease, left, more than, less than, remain
c. multiplication: times, each, product
d. division: quotient, share something equally, each, separate

6. Solve the problems showing your work. It is a word problem, so be sure to label it.

7. Check your answer. Don't skip this one! Using the reverse operation is always a great way to check your answer. The goal is to have a fact family that works. For example, for an addition problem use subtraction to check:  3 + 4 = 7   check: 7 - 4 = 3     For multiplication use division to check

There are two freebies to print and put in the math notebook to help students remember the steps below, as well as a visualization worksheet.

The freebies below can be downloaded in google.drive by clicking the link below the picture.

Thank you Dancing Crayon for the terrific shape on this sheet. 

Below are a couple of sheets that can be added to the math notebook. There are two on each sheet to save on printing.

Hope your students loose that "deer in headlights" look with these hints.


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