One of the biggest challenges in teaching math is those dreaded word problems. They really test students ability to use number sense and computation.
I have been teaching math for over twenty years and have been using this strategy the entire time.
Whether students are asking me a question or I am working with a whole group, I always ask the following 4 questions after reading the math word problem with students:
1. What type of problem is this – addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division?
2. What information are you given?
3. How do you think you would solve this problem?
4. How did you get the answer?
I created a sheet that I use with small group instruction and/or whole group to teach students this method.
Below you can see a few of my students in action working in a small group.
The word problem was:
Lauren ran a marathon and finished 1 hour and 15 minutes after Amy, who had a time of 2 hours 20 minutes. Cassie finished 35 minutes after Lauren. How long did it take Cassie to run the marathon?
When we began, I asked those four questions. For the first question, some of the students thought the problem would use addition only, where one student felt we might use subtraction too. We continued on together with the next two questions. Then, I had everyone show their work independently. Finally, we came back together to compare our answers.
As you can see from the student’s sheets, they wrote down their thinking, information, and plan. On the right side of the paper, they showed their work. Each did it at little differently. Below are some examples:
After getting the solution, I had the students check their answers.
When we were done, we discussed how the problem didn’t use subtraction. I told the students, we are trying to figure out how to solve the word problem and sometimes we think we will do it one way, but as we work through it, we discover that our prediction may not be what we actually do.
I created a freebie of this sheet: Solving Math Word Problems. Just click on the image and you can download it from my store.
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