Elementary Word Problems: How to Teach Kids to Solve Word Problems

If you have a child in elementary school, chances are that he or she will be required to solve word problems for math class. By the 5th and 6th grade, these problems will have grown considerably in complexity. Keep reading for information about how you can help your child learn to solve word problems.

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Helping Your Child with Math Word Problems

Elementary students often struggle with word problems because they present a double challenge. Not only does your child have to solve the problem, but he or she also must sift out the necessary information and then choose the appropriate operation. Word problems are not only a major part of your child's math education beyond elementary school, but are also included on most state standardized tests.

Getting Started

Whenever you're planning to teach your child math at home, it's often best to first consult with his or her teachers. Find out your child's learning level and the level of word problem that he or she is required to solve. Before letting your child dive into problem solving, make sure that the appropriate skill sets are in place. Word problems not only test your child's math skills, but also his or her reading comprehension abilities. It may be necessary for your child to work on his or her literacy skills before tackling word problems.

Teaching the Steps

Although word problems may appear confusing at first, teaching your child to always follow the same steps when solving them can make the process far less daunting. First, have your child read a word problem aloud. Next, have your child explain what it means in his or her own words. If your child can't do this, then literacy help is needed before proceeding.

The next step is to have your child decipher what the clues and pertinent information are within the problem. For example, the main character's name is going to be less important that any numerical amounts that are presented. Have your child break the problem into a simple math equation and then solve. Finally, make sure that your child phrases the answer to the equation in the context of the story that the word problem presents. For instance, if the word problem asked how many cupcakes Suzy needs to bake, your child's answer should include the word 'cupcakes'.

Useful Resources

You can give your child word problem practice by printing free worksheets from the Internet. There are also a plethora of free online math and reading games, quizzes, tests and activities. On many sites, you and your child can choose between simple problems with only one equation and more advanced, multi-equation problems.

If your child is struggling with word problems in ways that you can't handle alone, you might consider hiring a private tutor or going to a learning center. Your child's math teacher may provide help before or after school, as well. Talk to your child's teacher to find out what kind of help is specifically needed and what your options are.

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