Tips to Helping your Sixth Grader with Math Word Problems
Math word problems can be confusing, but there are ways you can help your sixth grader understand them. Read on to learn more about how to best solve math word problems.
It may seem as though your child just got a firm grasp on single digit and double digit equations, long division, and percentages when they begin to learn about word problems. They bring home assignments and begin to work only to become frustrated by the challenges presented by difficult word problems.
Reading the Word Problem
To begin, your child must learn to read the entire word problem before working out the problem. Your child would not write a report on a book after reading only the first chapter.
After reading the problem one or more times, the first thing your child needs to do is determine what the problem is asking for. If the word problem is asking more than one question, your child should work on figuring one out completely and before going back to figure out the next one.
Developing a Plan
The next step is to figure out the equation. When trying to find the equation in a word problem, your child must search through the jumble of extra English words and information. First, he or she should determine the most important information and begin to pull it out of the word problem. The second thing to do is change the English into math, marking variables or changing words to symbols. While doing this, your child may run across key words that actually mean one of five simple math equations.
Key words that signify addition are:
 Increased by
 Added to
 Sum
 More than
 Combined
 Totaled
Subtraction can be represented by the phrases:
 Decreased by
 Less than
 A difference of
The different word problem ways to say multiplication include:
 Times
 Multiplied by
 Product of
 Increased/decreased by a factor of
Division is usually stated with phrases like:
 Out of
 Ratio of
 A percent of
To figure out what something equals, your child should look for:
 Is, are, was, were, will be, gives, or yields
Answering the Question
Once your child has all the information, they can begin to form an equation. Sometimes drawing a diagram or graph will help clarify the information and make choosing an appropriate equation easier. Another easy way to choose an equation is by looking at the units mentioned in the word problem. If the word problem is talking about variables then the appropriate equation would contain variables.
Once your child finds the answer, they may need to turn the answer back into English. They can do this by using the key words used in the word problem. They can also write it in the question that the word problem asked. For example, if the question was 'Shirley had 30 bananas and she divided them equally between the five monkeys at the zoo, how many bananas did each monkey get?' then the answer can be written as 'each monkey received 6 bananas.'
The final thing to remember about word problems is that practicing will help your child build their skill and the more they practice, the easier it will be for them to figure out word problems quickly.
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