Math word problems can often seem intimidating and confusing for kids. The complexity of the language used, and the presence of unnecessary information can easily throw them off track. However, with the right strategies in place, solving one step word problems can become much easier and more manageable for young kids.
Let’s explore five effective strategies that can help kids approach and solve challenging or easy one step word problems with confidence. These strategies can help them become more comfortable with word problems and develop the skills needed to excel at math.
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5 Effective Ways to Solve Math Word Problems for Kids
To illustrate the below strategies, let’s consider the following word problem:
“Sarah is planning to bake cookies for her friends. She wants to make three different types of cookies: chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin. Each batch of chocolate chip cookies requires 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of butter. The recipe for peanut butter cookies calls for 1 1/2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1/4 cup of butter. Finally, the oatmeal raisin cookies require 2 1/4 cups of flour, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, and 1/3 cup of butter. If Sarah wants to make a total of 30 cookies, how much of each ingredient does she need?”
Practice Restating the Problem
When kids do not understand the question properly, they are unsure which operation (+, −, ×, or ÷ ) to use to answer that question.
Research suggests that word problems can be better understood by young kids when keywords are identified, the relevant information is gathered, and visual representations are created.
Examples of such keywords are:
- Addition keywords: “add(ed) to,” “all together,” “combine”
- Subtraction keywords: “fewer than,” “remaining,” “take away”
- Multiplication keywords: “times,” “every,” “triple”
- Division keywords: “per,” “each”
Word problems can be complexly worded or include unnecessary information, confusing kids. It is crucial to pay attention to keywords (hints as to what the problem is requesting you to do) and key information when attempting to identify the right action.
Teach your little one to restate the problem in their own words, focusing on the essential information and discarding irrelevant details. The practice can help them identify the problem’s core and determine what needs to be fixed.
So, for the above word problem, the restated problem will be:
“Sarah is planning to bake three types of cookies: chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin. She needs to know how much flour, sugar, and butter she should use to make a total of 30 cookies.”
Visualize or Model the Problem
Help your little ones to visualize word problems by encouraging them to view them as real-life scenarios or stories. This can be achieved through various techniques, such as acting out the problem or creating diagrams, pictures, or models. By visualizing the problem, kids can gain a clear understanding of the situation and can better comprehend the question being asked.
- Encourage your little one to imagine themselves in Sarah’s situation.
- Ask them to picture themselves in a kitchen surrounded by ingredients and baking tools.
- Use physical objects or drawings to represent the ingredients and quantities.
- Create a simple diagram or picture to represent the overall baking process. For instance, draw three separate sections, each representing one type of cookie.
Remove the Numbers
In a counterintuitive approach, consider removing the numbers from the word problem initially. This strategy encourages young kids to focus on understanding the problem without being distracted by numerical values. By removing the numbers, they can read the problem more attentively and think critically before proceeding with calculations.
Using this technique, kids can examine the problem more carefully and consider the quantity of the ingredients needed for each kind of cookie.
This strategy encourages kids:
- To focus first on recognizing the issue
- The connections between various components
- Then start the calculations.
Try the CUBES Method
The CUBES method is a technique for approaching word problems effectively.
This method helps kids identify key elements so that critical details are not missed by instructing them to:
Evaluate important information
Using the CUBES method, kids can become more attentive and precise in problem-solving.
So the above word problem would be
C: Circle the key elements and numbers in the problem.
U: Underline the question being asked, i.e., “How much of each ingredient does Sarah need to make a total of 30 cookies?”
B: Box any keywords or action words.
E: Evaluate the information given and plan to solve the problem.
S: Solve the problem using the plan.
Share feedback and reflection
Provide constructive feedback for their attempts at problem-solving and point out their accomplishments and areas for development. Ask them questions like, “How did you come to this conclusion?,” or “What could you do differently next time”. This way, you can encourage self-reflection in them, and kids are able to assess their own thinking skills and come up with better ideas to advance their problem-solving skills.
Math word problems don’t have to be an intimidating challenge; rather, they can be seen as exciting opportunities to apply math concepts and solve real-life challenges.
By implementing these strategies, you can create a supportive learning environment, empowering kids to approach math word problems with confidence and success. With practice and persistence, they will develop strong problem-solving skills that will serve them well throughout their academic journey and beyond. So let’s equip our young learners with these effective strategies and watch them excel in math.
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