Third Grade Math: Introduction to Problem Solving

Third grade math curricula place a great deal of emphasis on introducing students to problem solving techniques, as well as having them explain how they reached their answers. Often, students are exposed to these concepts through word problems. Read on for information on how you can teach these skills at home.

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Learning Problem Solving Techniques through Word Problems

Use a Step-by-Step Process

When your child brings home word problems from school, there are certain steps you can follow to help her understand how to work through each problem and solve it. You may want to start by reading the problem out loud with her more than once. Next, you can guide her to break down the problem so she can understand how to solve it.

  1. Help her underline what she's trying to find out.
  2. Ask her to circle the words and numbers that give her solid information.
  3. Advise her to cross out any information that makes the story interesting but isn't helpful in solving the problem.
  4. Have her highlight words that tell her what math processes are needed. For adding, this could be words like 'sum,' 'added to,' 'combined,' 'increased by,' 'total of' and 'more than.' Subtraction words could include 'difference,' 'taken from,' 'minus,' 'less than' and 'decreased by.' Multiplication problems may use such words as 'times,' 'multiplied by' and 'product of.' Words like 'per,' 'ratio,' 'quotient' and 'out of' are used for division.
  5. Assist her with writing the given facts into an equation that will help her find the answer.
  6. Ask her to solve the problem. Guide her to double-check her answer to see if it's a reasonable number and truly answers the question. Check her math for accuracy.

Teach Problem Solving Tactics

Encourage your child to use other tactics to help find solutions to the problems. Illustrating the problem with a picture or diagram may be helpful. He can try making a list or a table, stating the problem in his own words or acting it out.

Practice with Word Problems

Encourage your child to try different problem solving techniques on the word problems below. Ask her to explain how she got her answer.

  1. Jake has 12 kids at his birthday party. His parents are ordering pizza. If each pizza can feed 4 kids, how many pizzas need to be ordered?
  2. Kim has saved up $14 to buy four new books. She wants a $12 arts and crafts book, $8 novel, $5 poetry book and $7 journal. How much more does Kim need to save in order to buy all the books?
  3. Bill bought 6 packages of dog biscuits to donate to the local animal shelter. Each package contains 8 biscuits. How many biscuits in all is Bill donating?

Answer Key

  1. To find out how many pizzas need to be ordered, you must divide: 12 ÷ 4 = 3. Jake's parents would need to order three pizzas.
  2. This problem contains mixed operations. First, you must add how much all the books cost: $12 + $8 + $5 + $7 = $32. Now subtract how much money Kim has from $32 to find out how much money she still needs: $32 - $14 = $18.
  3. To find out how many biscuits Bill purchased in all, you need to do multiplication: 6 x 8 = 48. There are 48 biscuits total.
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