Wednesday, January 29, 2020

How to Solve Math Word Problems Step by Step

How do you teach solving math word problems?

Is there a step by step problem solving method that my students can use?



Do your students struggle to understand and solve math word problems? Solving math word problems doesn't have to be difficult. Teaching students how to solve math word problems is important. There are some key skills that you can teach today!


How to Solve Math Word Problems


There are several key skills for math word problems that you can teach your students in one class period of thirty minutes or less. Introducing these skills will help your students become better problem solvers. Try one or all of them today!

1. Drawing a Picture or Diagram. 

This is a great strategy to use with visual learners. Students who are visual learners process information that they can see better than information that they hear. Drawing a picture helps them see the problem.

Here's an example of using the strategy of a picture. What’s the problem tell us? There are four apple juice boxes in the cooler and those apple juice boxes are 1/3 of the juice boxes in the cooler. (Also Step 1) Draw the Problem. Draw 4 apple juice boxes. Say these are 1/3 of the juice boxes. Draw one circle around the 4 apple juice boxes, and then draw 2 empty circles. Question what would go in the other circles and how to get to the correct answer. This is great for math chats about the possibilities.

2. Find a Pattern. 

Students should list the information already given in the problem. This list should reveal some very critical information about the problem. Examine the list of information for a pattern. What looks alike in the numbers? Does it repeat? Does it double? After finding the pattern, students should be able to identify the answer to the word problem.

3. Guess and Check. 

The strategy is exactly like the name. Students guess the answer and then check their guess to fit the conditions of the problem. It's a simple strategy, but very powerful to get students thinking.
Why use this method? A mathematician's guess is called a "conjecture". By using this strategy students are learning to become better mathematicians. They are learning to look for the unknown. When students look back to check their answer and prove that it is correct, is called a "proof." Students need to see that their proof is correct or incorrect in order to be successful in the future.

4. Make a List.

This strategy is one of the most powerful ones. Students decide what information goes on the list from the word problem given. Organize the list by categories and make sure all the pieces of the problem are on the list. Lastly have students review the information that they organized on a list. Does it make sense? Can you reach a conclusion to solve the problem?


5. Use Reasoning.

To use reasoning students first need to organize the information given into a chart. Examine the relationships between the numbers. Think about the data and form a logical conclusion. Students may have to eliminate information to find the answer. Reasoning is not always easy to teach. Here are some questions to help guide students through using reasoning.
  • Does the information make sense? 
  • What do these numbers have in common? 
  • Is there a pattern or relationship between the numbers? 
  • What can you conclude about the information? 
  • Does this word problem ask you to find something?


6. Working Backwards

Working backwards is not always an easy concept for students. You need to have reasoning and logic to move from the end back to the beginning of a problem. When working backwards it helps to review what the facts are. What do we know and what is missing? Here's an example of working backwards with a math problem.


7. Using a Graphic Organizer

The word problem graphic organizer helps walk students through the problem solving process. Each step is broken down for the student to analyze. Through this analysis, the students have a better chance of comprehending the word problem, choosing the correct operation, and determining if their answer makes sense.



These are just seven ways to problem solve to find a solution to a math problem. The most important thing you can do is to teach your students how to become problem solvers. The first step is reading a word problem. Then find a strategy that can help you solve the problem. As students become more fluent problem solvers, they will be able to use any of the problem solving strategies.

Try one or all the strategies and download the free problem solving challenge today!


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    Happy Problem Solving!

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