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Achieving in math depends greatly on the student’s ability in problem solving. Math word problems are common in standardized tests as well as in everyday assignments. When solving a word problem, the student must be able to take the words in the problem and translate them into mathematical language. This presents an obstacle to children lacking in oral and written vocabulary. Other students struggle with the computation required to solve the word problem. For these students, some alternative teaching techniques that you can use are: Talk about and Rephrase the Word Problem For the student with low language skills, give the child the opportunity to verbalize the problem or talk about possible solutions so that he practices the language. Simplify the language in the word problem by paraphrasing it using synonyms and/or easier vocabulary. Visually Simplify the Word Problem Let the student circle key information or use color highlighters.
Prepare. asking if the child needs the information in that sentence to solve the problem. go through every sentence in the story. Use a stepwise approach. The steps in the problem can be visually separated using color. use visual representations like pictures. Have the child explain the sequence. teach the student to think of problem solving as a sequence of steps rather than something that you do all at once. so that the student sequences the steps in the right order. or around the different steps. you can tell at a glance where the student is stuck in the problem solving process. the first step is always red. examples of word problems with the important information already highlighted or underlined so that the student has models to look at and to follow. and flowcharts. specifically discuss with the student why the sentences in the word problem have different colors. which the child can reinforce by drawing pictures. have the student cross out that sentence. When you use a sequential color procedure. highlight the words that give clues in which operations to use. For example. Show the student a word problem with the answer. In a solved problem. Help the student develop a mental image of the problem.Have the student circle the necessary information and then cross out the rest. and the third step is always green. the second step is always blue. To make coloring effective. Also. and have the child find the steps used to reach the answer. If it is not needed. To reinforce the auditory information. that is. . number lines. and put on charts or index cards. Sequence the Information Have the student number the information in the word problem according to the order in which he needs to use it. Then have the student replace the operational words with symbols to help in setting up the problem. but not the steps. symbols. With the student. Draw a frame or border around each major section in the word problem. maps. present the steps required in a random order.
Alternatively. so that he spends more time talking through the algorithm or process at the conceptual level. and then the long division part. Then have the child calculate using the original numbers. If the order in which the student solves the computation does not affect the final answer. Break One Longer Problem into Easier Ones Have the student try to find part of the answer and see if she can proceed from there. and then he calculates using the original numbers Have the child substitute easier numbers (e. the child can try to break the problem into smaller or simpler questions. and you or a peer solve the hardest computation (e.g. Identify the operation(s) you need to solve the problem . Teach the Student a Strategy for Problem Solving Give the student a scaffolded strategy for solving multi-steps problems. long division). addition). he solves first the addition step. answer each question.g. have him substitute smaller numbers (e. For example. solve each mini-problem. Have the student break the longer problem into two or three mini-problems (each step is a miniproblem).g. 1. Reread the problem to find out what information is giving you (What do I know?) 3.g. Read the problem 2.g. 4*8 in place of 465*86) so that he can understand the operation involved. When the student has difficulty with the computation involved. 50*40 instead of 49*38) to get an idea of what the answer is. Give the student some credit for correct reasoning. five problems instead of twelve. Reread the problem and decide what is asking you to do (What do I need to find out?) 4. Simplify the Computation in the Word Problem Use simpler calculations to control the effect of a low computational skill in problem solving.Before the student starts solving the problem. and then combine the results. e. Have the student handle one computation only (e. and then combine the results. e. reorder the steps in the word problem so that the student handles first the computation that is easier for him. have her hypothesize the number of steps needed. even if the computation is incorrect. Have the student work on fewer problems.g.
Write your partial answers to the problem 7. Carmen is an expert in the application of behavior management strategies. includes ten years teaching emotionally disturbed/behaviorally disordered children and four years teaching students with a learning disability or low cognitive functioning. and in teaching students with learning or behavior problems. Carmen has taught at all grade levels. Use objects or draw pictures to visualize and solve the problem 6. . Reyes. Brooklyn: NY). visit Carmen’s blog.5. from kindergarten to post secondary. has more than twenty years of experience as a self-contained special education teacher. Combine your partial answers to solve the problem About the Author Carmen Y. To download free the eGuide. Carmen has a bachelor’s degree in psychology (University of Puerto Rico) and a master’s degree in special education with a specialization in emotional disorders (Long Island University. Her classroom background. in New York City and her native Puerto Rico. The Psycho-Educational Teacher. and educational diagnostician. You can read the complete collection of articles on Scribd or her blog. She also has extensive graduate training in psychology (30+ credits). resource room teacher. Carmen is the author of 60+ books and articles in child guidance and in alternative teaching techniques for low-achieving students. Persuasive Discipline: Using Power Messages and Suggestions to Influence Children Toward Positive Behavior. The Psycho-Educational Teacher.