Whether your child excels in math or struggles to understand more advanced concepts, word problems can be a new format they can struggle with. Math word problems require a different skill set than standard math problems that your child will need to master in order to succeed. Additionally, word problems tend to reflect real-world problems and situations where they will need to apply their math skills.
Children often struggle with word problems because they require an ability to analyze information and extract only the useful elements. Instead of being told directly what operation they need to do, they have to discover it themselves before they can figure out the solution. Because of this, your child may struggle to solve word problems correctly or even become frustrated or disheartened by their work.
How You Can Help
There is no “hack” or special trick to help children understand word problems, but there are a number of strategies and tips that can make the process easier. Consider these strategies if your child is struggling to successfully solve word problems:
- Use highlighters to mark important information. Word problems can be overwhelming, but you can help your child break the problem down by only highlighting the parts of the problem that are essential to the math they need to do. Teach them to highlight important numbers and key phrases (such as “more,” “less,” or “all together”) in math problems so they can focus on what matters.
- Remove the numbers from the equation. Remember that word problems are difficult not because of the math involved but because children have difficulty extracting the correct information from the word problems. Give your child a word problem with the numbers blotted out. Once they've read it, ask them whether it's a multiplication problem, a division problem, an addition problem, or a subtraction problem. This will help them focus on the development of their analytical skills without the distraction of having to solve the problem.
- Use visuals. Interactive materials are a very valuable tool in teaching children math, and using them when you work on word problems can give children something familiar to work with while they're learning new material. Have them read a word problem and use the materials to lay out the numbers they see and use them to solve the problem.
Word problems are a big change from traditional math problems, and they require a different set of skills that children may not have developed yet. If your child is having a hard time, a good idea is to enroll them in Math Genie. The teachers at Math Genie can help your child develop their critical thinking and analytical skills through guided practice, building their skills and their confidence. The teachers give helpful and kind feedback, not just to your child but to you as well. Word problems can be a big challenge, but they are an important part of your child’s developing math skills and can be fun, too.