Q&A #466

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Understanding word problems

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From: keith stephens

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 section 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 problem) 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 Keith

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