Even students who are quick with math facts often get stuck when it comes to solving problems.
As soon as a concept is translated into a word problem or a simple mathematical sentence contains an unknown, they are stumped.
That's because automatic math solutionsrequires us to consciously choose the strategies that work best for the problem at hand. And not all students have this metacognitive ability.
But you can teach these problem-solving strategies. You just need to know what they are.
We've grouped them into four categories here:
Strategies for understanding a problem
Strategies for solving the problem
Strategies for working it out
Automatic math solutions
Learn these strategies and then model them explicitly for your students. The next time they dive into a comprehensive problem, they will complete their worksheet faster than ever before!
Before students can solve a problem, they need to know what it is asking them to do. This is often the first hurdle with word problems that don't specify a particular mathematical operation.
Read the question and read it again
They say they read it, but did they really? Sometimes students skip the task once they notice a familiar piece of information, or they give up trying to understand it if the task doesn't make sense at first glance.
Teach students to interpret a question by using self-monitoring strategies, such as:
Slowly rereading a question if it doesn't make sense the first time.
Highlighting or underlining important information.
Identifying important and unimportant information
John is raising money for his friend Ari's birthday. He starts with $5, then Marcus gives him another $5. How much does he have now?
As adults, when we look at the problem above, we can immediately look past the names and the birthday scenario and see a simple addition problem. However, students have a hard time determining what is relevant in the information they have been given.
Teach students to sort and sift through the information in a problem to find what is relevant. A good way to do this is to have them exchange information to see if the solution changes. If changing names, items, or scenarios doesn't affect the end result, they will realize that this doesn't need to be a focus in solving the problem.
This is a math intervention strategy that can make problem solving easier for all students, regardless of ability.
Compare different word problems of the same type and construct a formula or mathematical sentence stem that applies to all of them. For example, a simple subtraction problem could be expressed as follows:
[number/quantity A] with [number/quantity B] removed is [end result].
This is the underlying procedure or scheme that students should use. Once they have a list of schemes for different mathematical operations (addition, multiplication, etc.), they can take turns applying them to an unknown word problem and see which scheme fits.