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Getting to grips with maths word problems..?

(17 Posts)
mammasmadhouse Sun 07-Aug-16 20:38:38

My 10 year old dd struggles with word based maths questions, how can I help her to get to grips with what is being asked/how to tackle the questions?

Muffintopmum Sun 07-Aug-16 21:06:51

When my kids were at primary school, they were taught the acronym RUCSAC to help solve maths word problems. Not sure if this is still good practice but it stands for read, understand, choose (the type of operation required ie addition, subtraction, division, multiplication), solve, answer, check. Underlining key words/numbers in the question is always helpful and understanding that most word problems have at least two steps/involve more than one operation. These steps can be numbered step 1, step 2 etc. Developing a good maths vocabulary will help eg words for addition include the sum of, increase, altogether, total. Websites like twinkl may have maths vocabulary posters you can print off. Lots of children respond to visual aids so try 'drawing' part of the problem or even acting it out if eg it's a shopping/money one. HTH.

Smartiepants79 Sun 07-Aug-16 21:26:21

Look up something called Singapore maths - bar method. It's an excellent way for children to learn break down what word problems are asking them in a very visual way. Try looking at a website called thinking blocks. A really good online tool.
Agree with working on understanding the language involved.
Really just practise, practise. Get her do one or two and then talk it through.
Twinkle is good for practise papers but you may need to pay.

AcademiaNut Mon 08-Aug-16 06:53:52

Here's a strategy I've used with many pupils - it's an amended version of the RUCSAC method I used to teach years ago:
1. Read question (twice)
2. Underline the *KEY WORDS
3. Write a (horizontal) number sentence
eg (4+9) x 6 =
or ? .\. 8 + 3 = 27
4. Estimate answer
5. Calculate number sentence
6. Write answer (double underline / underline clearly)

Estimating and comparing this estimate with the answer at the end also helps to avoid silly errors by identifying obvious mistakes.

*Children often need to be taught what 'key word' means. It's not hard to grasp.

InTheDessert Mon 08-Aug-16 07:22:09

Mine has been taught to cross out unnecessary info.
So if it read
"I have 4 busses and 3 cars. 2 of my busses are yellow. How many vehicles do I have?" He's start off by cross ping through the colour bit.

Can he do simple questions before you move to complicated ones??

AcademiaNut Mon 08-Aug-16 07:48:01

I wouldn't recommend crossing out irrelevant info as there are v few questions I come across that have those sort of 'irrelevant info thrown in to confuse' type tricks. On the contrary, introducing that as a technique could lead a child to overlook relevance vs eliminate unnecessary info.

If, however the question asks, how much is left when the question states how much was 'eaten', I'd definitely encourage calculation of how much was left vs long-winded calc. of how much was eaten, then subtracted from initial total.
eg £32.00 gift
3/8 was spent, how much was left.

Pupil ought to learn to see that the calculation necessary is 5/8 of £32 vs £32 - (3/8 X £32)

irvineoneohone Mon 08-Aug-16 08:58:36

My ds was really bad at word problems. I got lots of advice on MN.
He used RUCSAC as well, and practiced a lot until he got a hang of it.
Now he is very good at it.

InTheDessert Mon 08-Aug-16 09:22:25

Interesting about the difference between countries then. DS1 is in a British school abroad,and had pages and pages of questions with irelevent info in. He's just finished Y2. Wonder where the questions came from????

irvineoneohone Mon 08-Aug-16 09:57:32

My ds has done lots of problems with irelevent info from UK web site.
I think they are more advanced, so my ds's school won't give them.( I haven't seen it from school home work.)
I was an expat child, and expat children seems to be more advanced, so I can totally understand they do harder stuff at expat schools.

DullUserName Mon 08-Aug-16 14:31:28

RUCSAC has always been my go-to method when teaching. As part of the Understand step, I'll often encourage them to draw a picture of the problem. It really helps to sort out which operation is needed.

mrz Mon 08-Aug-16 15:41:34

I don't think the point about "crossing out irrelevant" information is about whether the word problems contain such information but about the advisability of teaching it as a strategy ...too easy to cross out something that would help solve the problem.

mammasmadhouse Mon 08-Aug-16 16:56:40

Great, thank you all for your suggestions

mrz Mon 08-Aug-16 18:15:13

Read the problem to check understanding
Underline key numbers and words
Draw a picture of the problem
Write an equation
Solve don't forget to show your workings
Check your answer makes sense

Dandelion6565 Wed 10-Aug-16 18:46:31

I teach these by following the steps above.
I let the child have a go then I work put how I would answer it and clearly write it out to check the answer.
It helps the child to see how To set out the answer clearly it is easy to calculate and spot errors. It also helps them to choose the most appropriate method.

We did a maths problem yesterday that asked for 35 sweets to be divided into 7 bags, two bags get eaten how many are left.

My answer used short division which my DS found very interesting. We regularly do these type of puzzles at home and often will have used different methods to work out the answer. It's interesting.

irvineoneohone Wed 10-Aug-16 19:56:21

My ds is good at solving word problems now, but mrz's list of steps is so good.
I made a card of it and stuck it next to my ds's desk. Thank you, mrz!

ReallyTired Thu 11-Aug-16 10:47:37

Google Singapore math thinking blocks. You can find a link to it from the maths playground site. Drawing a picture of the problem can help understanding as well. You could use real sweets and real bags to model Dandelion's sweet problem. Most children would happily eat 2 bags of sweets.

Autumnsky Thu 11-Aug-16 14:28:36

If DS2 has a problem he is not understanding, I would ask him to read it aloud slowly.Sometimes, after he read it out aloud slowly, he would realise what the question is asking. If not, I will explain what is being asked by break down the question into small steps. Next time,he normally will know it when he see the same type questions again.

So I would suggest OP to give lots of questions for your DC to practice. You only need to ask her to do a few every other day.

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