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Strategies for Solving Word Problems

Children from infants to sixth class, including those with special needs, should have the opportunity to experience word problem-solving mathematical activities. Some parents find it difficult to know how to support their children in working out these kinds of problems.
There is no quick fix or easy solution to solving these puzzles but the staff of our school has highlighted a number of simple tips which we hope will be of assistance.

Solving Word Problems - what are the challenges?

  • children don’t read the question properly or don’t process what they read
  • they give up too easily-they want you to tell them the steps needed to complete the problem
  • it’s too abstract - they can’t visualise what is being asked of them in order to bring the maths alive

Suggested Strategies when working with your child

  • Read the question carefully (2/3 times, if necessary).
  • Promote a cooperative approach - discuss the puzzle together
  • Highlight/underline key words and circle important information.
  • Draw a picture if possible - there is a need for some students to visualise the problem.
  • Use concrete materials/pictures.
  • Write a number sentence to tell the story or retell the puzzle in your own words.
  • Identify what you are being asked to find out.
  • Try to see the relationship between the pieces of information.
  • It may be easier or necessary to work backwards to find a starting point.
  • Estimation is a very important part of the process -
  • What is your answer roughly going to be?
  • Will I have more or less than I have now?
  • Refine the initial guess-i.e. make a better one.
  • Encourage good habits - perseverance, use roughwork, show the calculations used and the steps taken.
  • Problem solving should be a ‘fun’ activity and not left to the end of homework when students may be tired.
  • In school the teachers use the RUDE strategy- Read, Underline, Draw and Estimate

We are trying to teach our pupils to think for themselves. This requires lateral thinking, perseverance, visualisation and lots of patience and practice!!

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