Q&A #466

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Understanding word problems

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From: keith stephens <kest49@aol>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2000031021:30:42
Subject: Re: needing help with the math on the ged test

I would like to take this oppotunity to address the original question
and answer.

I am a great beliver in general processes, such as diagrams and
charts, and believe we must teach them dirctly. A lot of students need
to be taught what makes up a good math diagram and how to use that to
solve a problem. the same goes for charts and anything of the other
genral tools.
We also though need to teach students how to interpret the words of
word problems, or as I call it decoding.  this is part of the teaching
of english that we need to help our students with.  to suggest to
teach one half of these strategies without the other is doing the
student a disservice.  It is a process of inclusion not exclusion. 
Sure if the student comes to rely on key words to solve problems then
they are not going to succeed, but if the student doesn't understand
the difference between; sum, difference, subtract,less than, shared
between, etc they may never get off the ground.  How can you even
expain the diagram if witout using these words.

Here's a tool I use a great deal, that I hope is helpful.  It is an
outlining tool that gives the student a framework to plug in alot of
othe strategies.

Topic- Write out the main point of the problem, keeping in mind the
math concepts involved. This points you in the right direction

Find- clearly write out what you are trying to find

Info / formulas- If you know any formulas that may help write them
down( the topic points you at these formulas.
      Once you have any formulas write out all the information in the
problem, use the formulas to help guide you. jWrite the information in
list form alongsiode the formulas 

Diagram/chart- Draw adigram if possible of the problemand label it
with the information.  Oftena good diagram can replace the information

Working- at this time you are ready finally start whatr would be
traditionally called the working out (and is where most people want to
start and unfortunately is why a lot of people can't solve the
If you have completed the set up steps often by the time you get
tothis stage the solution is obvious.  It is often only a case of
either using the information in the formulas or completing the
information in a chart

Answer / check- Check you answer at least for reasonableness, make
sure you have answered the problem set

I hope this helps a bit

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