Whether your child excels in math or struggles to understand mathematical concepts and formulas, math word problems are often an entirely new entity that can cause even mathematically skilled children to struggle. Math word problems require a different skill set than standard math problems that children will need to master in order to succeed.
Why Children Struggle With Word Problems
Children often struggle with math 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 even begin to figure out the solution. Because of this, children often struggle to solve word problems correctly and can become frustrated or disheartened with their work.
Strategies to Help Children With Word Problems
There is no instant trick to help children understand word problems, but there are a number of strategies and tips that can make the process easier. Consider the following strategies if your child is struggling to successfully solve word problems.
- Use highlighters to mark important information. Word problems are overwhelming, but you can help your child break the problem down by only highlighting the parts of the problem that matter to them. Teach them to highlight important numbers and key phrases in math problems so they can focus on what matters and forget the rest.
- 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 the two of you focus on the development of your child's analytical skills without the distraction of having to solve the problem.
- Use visuals. Manipulates are a very valuable tool in teaching children math, and using them when you introduce 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 manipulates to lay out the numbers they see and use them to solve the problem.
Consistent Practice is Key
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. Help your child develop their critical thinking and analytical skills through repetitive practice so they can succeed in math problems of all types.