Quick tips to help kids with math problems
- Quick tip 1Mark up the problem.Mark up the problem.
Ask kids to read through the problem once. Then, have them read it again, circling the important words and phrases. This can help kids stay focused and avoid rushing.
- Quick tip 2Cover up distractions.Cover up distractions.
Use blank pieces of paper to cover all the problems except the one that kids are working on.
- Quick tip 3Make a checklist.Make a checklist.
Make a list of things that kids should double-check when solving a problem, like circling key phrases and writing a number sentence.
- Quick tip 4Use index cards.Use index cards.
On an index card, write a key phrase used in word problems and the symbol that represents it. Use one card for each phrase. (One card might show the phrase “in all” next to the “+” sign.) Encourage kids to match a card to each phrase in a problem.
- Quick tip 5Give a reading assist.Give a reading assist.
If reading is a struggle, read the word problems out loud. This simple change can help kids keep learning math even if reading is a challenge.
Word problems in math can be tricky. To get the right answer, kids have to be able to read the words, figure out what math operation to use, and then do the calculations correctly. A breakdown in any of these skills can cause trouble.
If kids seem to be good at math but struggle with word problems, here are possible reasons why:
Trouble with reading: To solve word problems, kids have to read well. So even if they usually do well with math, reading difficulties can make word problems hard.
Trouble understanding math phrases and concepts: Even if kids are strong readers, they may have trouble picking up on clues in word problems. These clues are phrases that help kids figure out what they need to do to solve the problem, like adding or subtracting. Kids then have to translate these phrases into a number sentence, like “two plus three equals five.”
Trouble with focus and self-control: Kids may get distracted by the words or get lost in their heads. Other kids struggle with self-control and rush through the problem. They may skip important parts or make simple calculation mistakes.