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The Importance of Understanding Word Problems in Maths: Techniques to Help

Understanding word problems in maths is crucial as they bridge the gap between abstract mathematical concepts and real-life situations. This area is one of the most challenging topics for children and one that requires practice from an early age. As a classroom teacher, I enjoyed planning our Find Out Friday activities using investigations from Nrich. Here are some techniques that I use to help children master word problems:

  1. Real-World Application: Word problems simulate real-life scenarios, helping students understand the practical application of mathematical concepts. They encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

  2. Contextual Understanding: Solving word problems requires students to interpret the problem, extract relevant information and apply appropriate mathematical operations. This enhances comprehension and retention of mathematical concepts.

  3. Language Skills: Word problems improve language skills as students must comprehend the problem, identify keywords and translate them into mathematical expressions. This encourages language development alongside mathematical proficiency.

  4. Techniques to Help:

  • Read Carefully: Encourage students to read the problem multiple times to grasp its context and identify key information.

  • Identify Keywords: Teach students to recognise keywords indicating mathematical operations (e.g. sum, difference, product, quotient).

  • Visual Representation: Use diagrams or drawings to illustrate the problem visually, assisting comprehension.

  • Chunking Information: Break down the problem into smaller, manageable parts to tackle it step by step. RUCSAC is a problem-solving process in mathematics that is a useful way to remember the steps needed and stands for Read, Understand, Choose, Solve, Answer and Check.

Mastering word problems not only enhances mathematical skills, but also encourages critical thinking, problem-solving and language proficiency, preparing students for real-world challenges.

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