The trouble with word problems

It's time to talk about WORD PROBLEMS!

Why is it that many children have such trouble with them?

Image by RadioFlyer007 (black border removed)
Licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
I've written some thoughts about this issue... I feel it is fairly comprehensive article, and hopefully helpful! Let me know what you think.

Here's the outline of the article:

And here's the beginning:

The problem

Have you ever noticed this kind of "recipe" for math lessons in many math books?


Explanation and examples.
Numerical exercises.
A few word problems.

In other words, the word problems are usually in the END of the lesson, and just a few. But worse... if the lesson is about topic X, then the word problems are usually about the topic X too!

Children might be learning about multi-digit multiplication, or subtraction, or dividing decimals. After the calculation exercises come some word problems, which oddly enough are solved by using the exact operation just practiced!

Worse YET... typically the word problems in elementary grades only have TWO numbers in them. So, even if you didn't understand a word in the problem, you might be able to do it. (The misguide to problem solving at the end of this article refers to this also.)

Just try: the following made-up problem is in FINNISH... and let's say it is found within a long division lesson. I assume now that you do NOT know Finnish — but can you solve it?

Kaupan hyllyillä on 873 lakanaa, 9:ää eri väriä. Joka väriä on saman verran. Kuinka monta lakanaa on kussakin värissä?

Continue reading...


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