Help With Solving Word Problems

Word problems can be a source of frustration and anxiety for many students. So I was looking for an article to see if there was any goos advice on this topic and I found the article below on Article Directory .com.

It offers some good ideas and should prove helpful as your student takes on learning math and solving word problems.

Six Word Problem-solving Strategies To Help Reduce Math Anxiety

 

 

Many students fear and despise the mathematics story problems (word problems) they encounter in their classes. Math anxiety is a real life experience and is usually made worse by the thought of having to solve a story problem.

The truth is, life itself is made up of a long series of story problems and those whose solution requires the use of our math skills are not difficult once a few simple strategies are learned.

Story problems usually contain key words or phrases that tell what operation(s) need to be performed with the numbers. Learn to look for these word clues:

ADDITION: add (to), sum, plus, more than, increased by

SUBTRACTION: subtract (from), difference, minus, less than, decreased by, how many more?

MULTIPLICATION: multiply, product, times, twice, three (four, five, etc.) times, percent

DIVISION: divide, quotient, share equally

When attempting to solve one of these problems, if the appropriate operation to be used is not obvious – just try something. If the wrong method is selected, one will at least learn what does not work – after all, if something isn’t tried, nothing will be learned.

Here is a basic procedure to follow:

Read the problem carefully – find out what is being asked for. Don’t try to understand the whole problem the first time through – just determine what the main question is.
Go back and re-read the problem to see what information has been given that will be helpful in answering the main question.
Find any word clues that will help determine what operations are needed.
Perform the required operations.
Finally, mentally check the answer to see if it makes sense and is reasonable. Be especially aware of the units (ft., in., lb., oz., gallons, etc.) and be sure the answer is expressed in the correct units.

The following six proven strategies will be helpful in solving story problems:

Draw a Figure or Diagram: This is the basic strategy to use when help is needed to visualize what is wanted in a problem – a sure-fire way to clear out any mental fog that exists. Labeling the figure with all the known information will keep everything straight and avoid getting lost in the words.

Put Data in a Table – Look for Patterns: A table is a great method for organizing information and once the information is in the table, it is a lot easier to find a pattern in the data.

Cut and Try Method: This method involves taking a guess at the answer and checking it against the desired answer and then adjusting the first guess (and any subsequent guesses) to get closer to the desired result.
An example of this method is used in zeroing an artillery piece on its target. An observer gives his best estimate of the target coordinates, a round is fired, the location of the hit is observed and the coordinates adjusted accordingly. The process is repeated until a hit is registered on the target.

Solve a Simpler Problem: Using a simpler version of a problem can be helpful in suggesting a problem solving approach.

A well-known example of this method involves deciding how many fence posts are needed for a fence of given length if the posts are to be spaced at 10 foot intervals. Draw a diagram of a fence with two or three posts, observe the pattern and apply it to the longer fence in the problem.

Work Backward: Solving problems by working backward is exactly what we do when solving linear equations.

For example: the equation 9x – 13 = 32 means that 13 subtracted from the product of x multiplied by 9 results in 32. So we reverse those operations to find x. Add 13 to each side of the equation and then divide both sides by 9.

Dimensional Analysis: Dimensional Analysis is one of the most useful methods for solving story problems. The great thing about specifying the units of the measurements (besides clarifying what we are talking about) is that they act just like numbers in arithmetic operations. All we do to solve a problem is put the units in the right order to produce the correct units for the answer.

For example: If a car traveled 395 kilometers in 210 minutes, what was the average mph?
Put the units in order so that cancellations will result in the desired combination:
Km/min x mi/km x min/hr = mi/hr

Next, plug in the given information and carry out the arithmetic operations.
395 km/210 min x 0.621 mi/km x 60 min/hr = 70 mi/hr or 70 mph

In summary, if students afflicted with “math phobia” will take a deep breath and approach the story problems with calmness and the following tools, life will take on a new beauty and serenity:

Read the problem carefully
Look for the operations key words
Pick a logical strategy to find the solution;

Draw a figure or diagram and label known parts
Put data in a table and look for patterns
Cut and try (take a few guesses and refine)
Solve a simpler problem
Work backward
Use dimensional analysis

Review your answer to see if it is reasonable.

Don’t forget to be neat and logical and have some fun – story problems are just a puzzle to solve.

By: Robert Leatherwood, PhD

Article Directory: http://www.articledashboard.com

 

  So what do you think? Did you find this article useful? Are you ready to go out and tackle some word problems?  🙂

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,