Solving Math Word Problems

Word problems in math can be quite a challenge for students because it requires the knowledge of math operations, as well as good reading comprehension skills to successfully solve it. Solving math word problems involves the following steps: (1) understand what the word problem is saying, (2) identify the question that is being asked, and (3) translate the information into a mathematical equation.

Teach Key Terminology

This is doable for native English speakers with good reading comprehension and math skills, but for those who struggle with the English language like foreign students and ESL learners, it can be more difficult. They may be able to solve a math word problem written in their native tongue, but the same word problem, if written in English, can be a challenge.

One way to solve this issue is to teach them the key terms and their meanings and make the students memorize them so that when they encounter these words and phrases, they can answer the word problems well. They will be able to write the correct equation and proceed to solve the word problem.

In teaching the key terms to remember, students will have an easier time writing mathematical equations. Through repetition and practice, the students will be able to slowly master word problems.

Memorizing key terms will only take students so far. To fully master word problems, students have to understand the meanings of certain words in the context of a word problem. As students advance into higher grade levels, they will encounter word problems that are more complex which are worded differently. They have to be able to discern whether the words they memorized have anything to do with answering the questions.

Suggested Activities

Create activities that are appropriate for each grade level. Make sure that it is aligned with the type of word problems being taught, as well as the level of fluency and comprehension of the English language.

Young students will benefit from daily problem-solving activities. Start with simple questions like “how many teachers are wearing a red shirt?”, “I brought 10 pieces of chocolate to school, but now I only have 4. How many were given away to friends?”.

Word problems for older students are more complex. When introducing the topic, read the word problem carefully as a class. Break it down into parts and analyze it with the students. Work on the word problems together before testing them. Encourage students who are visual learners to make diagrams and drawing to help them make sense of the word problems.

Final Thoughts

Word problems are a difficult but necessary part of learning math because it requires the mastery of both reading comprehension and problem-solving skills. It will take a lot of practice, but if practiced consistently, students will eventually gain the confidence and skills in solving math word problems.