According to some recent surveys,1,2,3 math is the most difficult subject at school. Math involves a completely different approach when it comes to problem-solving. Math phobia develops over time because children are not able to find a set approach to a problem. Over time, if the efforts are not reflected in the form of better grades, children lose interest in math. A math test may involve a set of completely new questions that the children have never seen before.
In such a scenario, children have a tendency to panic and lose confidence. It would be a boon if we could provide children with a set approach that they could use to solve any math problem. Math is a vast subject with different topics, and hence we cannot standardize a set approach for solving every problem. However, we can implement some general steps4 that are helpful in developing an approach for most of the problems. Let’s have a look at these steps:
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This is the most important rule when approaching any math question. Children should read a problem slowly and carefully. This would help them understand various things like:
i) Topic from which the question is asked
ii) Known and unknown parameters
iii) Difficulty level of the question.
Reading a question slowly also helps the mind visualize the question. Most of the errors are caused by not following Rule 1.
Make Relevant Diagrams
Making relevant diagrams wherever necessary helps in strong visualization. Diagrams are a perfect solution to getting the correct approach to a problem. Learning visually can help children identify the situation carefully even if the question is phrased in a tough way. Developing visual learning skills helps children throughout their careers. Visual learning also helps to increase one’s grasping power, and one can implement it quicker than others. Drawing rough sketches, diagrams, and flowcharts can help children in the future if they opt for fields like engineering, medicine, architecture, planning, etc.
Make an Action Plan
A short action plan can also come in handy. An action plan can include a pathway to solve problems. To understand this, let’s look at some examples.
Example 1: Find the value of x in the equation 2x+3=9 and substitute the same in the equation 2x+9y=8 to find out the value of y.
Action plan: Solve 2x + 3 = 9, find x , put the value of x in 2x+9y=8, and find y.
Example 2: You are standing in front of a vertical pole of height 12 meters. The lateral distance from the top of the tower to your feet is 5 meters. How far are you standing from the foot of the tower?
Action Plan: Make a sketch, identify the sides of the right triangle formed, apply the Pythagoras theorem, and find the unknown side.
If such action plans are followed, children will have more clarity and will be stress-free. This also helps them to be in a mentally stable state.
Solve the Problem
If all the rules given above are followed, then the armory is ready. At the time of execution, some errors can occur, but these can be avoided by working on the following factors:
i) Improve handwriting
ii) Double-check and recheck each step that follows the previous step to avoid errors.
= 15 + 32 + 64
= 51 + 96
iii) Mention any formulas or theorems that are applied.
For example, if we are using the addition subtraction rule of (a+b)(a-b)=a2-b2, then we should specify it. This would help teachers grade papers easily. This habit also helps in developing efficient lecture notes that are easy to revise.
Verify Your Solution
Verify your solution wherever possible.
Find 456 + 789,
456 + 789 = 1,245
Now, check it by subtracting any one of the addends from the sum.
1,245 – 456 = 789
This verifies that the answer is correct.
So to summarize these steps and remember them, we can create a slogan.
“Read, sketch, plan, solve and verify.”
If you like music, make a rap song/rhyme “Read it then sketch it, plan it then solve it, but don’t forget to verify fy fy.” Add a tune to it and you won’t forget.
So next time you are feeling lost after seeing a math problem, you know what to do.
Making children learn these rules from a young age would help them have a better career trajectory. Children would start planning their days, schedules, and plans accordingly. Making children understand the importance of planning would also help them to reduce procrastination. Speaking of procrastination, parents should always try to give the best possible educational resources to their children as early as possible. Byju’s FutureSchool Blog is one of the platforms with a repository of articles dedicated to helping children understand math in the most effective and engaging way possible. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the blog to find more articles like this one.
- Math Problematic for U.S. Teens. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/16360/math-problematic-us-teens.aspx
- (PDF) What Makes Mathematics Difficult as a Subject for most Students in Higher Education? (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342888714_What_Makes_Mathematics_Difficult_as_a_Subject_for_most_Students_in_Higher_Education
- Maths considered most difficult third-level STEM subject. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.siliconrepublic.com/careers/maths-third-level-stem-subjects
- 4 steps to solve even the toughest math problem – Education Today News. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/tips-and-tricks/story/4-steps-to-solve-even-the-toughest-math-problem-1380913-2018-11-02