Imagine this: You have just finished a lesson on adding and subtracting fractions. Your students have done a phenomenal job with computing given addition and subtraction problems. However, when it comes time to do word problems, they do not have the slightest clue where to begin.
As a middle school math teacher, I had this very same issue. My students did an amazing job with solving one- and two-step equations, but when it was time to do any word problems, their confidence disappeared into the ether.
There are various reasons that students are not comfortable or are unable to solve word problems. Some reasons are reading comprehension, students not reading the entire problem, low confidence, not knowing mathematical vocabulary, poorly worded problems, and instructional time not being utilized on word problems.
Effectively solving word problems is a vital skill that assists in the development of transferable cross-curricular skills and problem-solving skills for the world outside of the classroom. You know that all students do not learn the same. There are a multitude of methods that you can teach your students. Kayla from “The Average Teacher” has a great list of strategies for students to use to effectively solve word problems, which can be found here.
You can teach your students strategies to assist them in solving word problems. However, you must also encourage your students to persevere through word problems. Students should be given consistent opportunities to apply the problem-solving approaches that you have introduced them to. It is also great to model problem-solving strategies during instructional time. Speak aloud your thought process as you complete an exemplar for your students. Just as you model how to complete computations, you must also model the thought process behind selecting and applying problem-solving methods. Students will learn to choose and apply strategies to work through the steps of solving a word problem.
As your students’ academic guide, you can teach your students problem-solving strategies to combat the challenges of solving word problems. Doing this will also aid your students’ development of problem-solving skills that will help them flourish inside and outside of academic settings.
Do you have any strategies for solving word problems that you would like to share, or do you have any suggestions for future blog topics? Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and ideas.