# Help with math story problems

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Does anyone have any advise on how to teach story problems? My son is in the second grade and can solve very simple math story problems, but not ones with multiple steps, he just doesn't get how to solve those. We use Horizons math 2 and they just do not have much practice with these. Anyone have any ideas on what might help? Thanks!

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This is one of the reasons I like Singapore. THere is a lot more practice with problem solving. Does he really understand what addition and subraction are conceptually? I would do lots of practice as you go along. THings like, "I have 5 pens right now. How many would I have if I took 3 away?" Do this often throughout the day. "How many more would I need to have 10 pens?" Sometimes it is hard for younger kids to get past the words on the page and think about the math. Try reading the problems to him and even rephrasing the problem a little. Teach some key words like if it says "how much more" if is probably a subtraction problem.

I would lots of practice with this, maybe print off extra worksheets from edhelper.com or something.

Best of luck.

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One idea is to get a book that does story problems well. I love Singapore for that.

The other idea is to get out your beans, pennies, rocks, etc. and make up your own story problems. Show each step as you go:

1. Understand: What do you know? What do you want to know?

2. Plan: What should you do to solve the problem?

3. Work: Solve the problem?

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Does anyone have any advise on how to teach story problems? My son is in the second grade and can solve very simple math story problems, but not ones with multiple steps, he just doesn't get how to solve those. We use Horizons math 2 and they just do not have much practice with these. Anyone have any ideas on what might help? Thanks!

A good math program would teach these by explicitly breaking down the various steps. (Foerster's algebra program does this in algebra for example)

Here's one example of how one of these proto-multistep word problems might be worded.

Mrs. Tan bought 125 fishballs. She kept 110 fishballs for a party and divided the remainder among her 5 children.

A) How many fishballs did she give away altogether?

B) How many fishballs did each child get?

After solving a multitude of such problems the intermediate question would be eliminated in the hopes that the kid would have intutively learned how to do an intermediate step. The word problem would then look like this,

Mrs. Tan bought 125 fishballs. She kept 110 fishballs for a party and divided the remainder among her 5 children. How many fishballs did each child get?

In the Singapore math program there is a device called a "bar diagram" that is a visual organizer that the kids use which is very, very helpful once you get the hang of it (So helpful that I resort to using one for myself to solve hairy algebra word problems that are linear equations in one variable It helps me to figure out how to set up the equation)

I have a seven year old son with a bad language delay, and I would have thought that his weak point would have been word problems, however, after demonstrating how to organize the information with bar diagrams he has dramatically improved his ability to recognize when a problem needs an intermediate step and what that step is.

Here is a blog post about multi-step word problems which is a very important pre-algebraic skill to develop. There are sample problems and bar diagrams. While you wont' be able to figure out with only one or two bar diagrams how an what to do with each of your word problems, the Singapore math program systematically teaches these for each class of problem that the kid comes across.

With my first son I believed that he personally needed to demonstrate every single problem with a bar diagram whether he needed to or not. Now with my second son I'm only using them to demonstrate the thinking behind a new class of problems that I know he'll be coming across and then if and only if he misses the problem will I have him go back and fill in the info on the bar diagram.

I wish I could give a bar diagram 101 course! My printer is broken right now and maybe one of these days I'll get arounding this, so for right now, be assured that indeed there is a math program that does explicitly teach this step-by-step.

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Singapore is excellent at teaching this ability!

Regena

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Does anyone have any advise on how to teach story problems? My son is in the second grade and can solve very simple math story problems, but not ones with multiple steps, he just doesn't get how to solve those. We use Horizons math 2 and they just do not have much practice with these. Anyone have any ideas on what might help? Thanks!

Recently I purchased Math Detective Beginning published by The Critical Thinking Co. (I think I got it from Rainbow Resource)....... we haven't used it yet, but it looks like it might work. you have a story... and each sentence is numbered.... then the questions follow........ referring back to the sentence number if needed.

I can't remember what the book cost, but it is just a small workbook..... it is meant for grades 3 - 4... but it could work if you went slowly and took your time. That was my reason for purchasing it...... to supplement their word problem work.

Good Luck.

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Do you think I should purchase Singapore for story problems?

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We are also Horizons users, and I do feel it is quite *light* in the word problem area. Singapore has a Challenging Word Problems book for each level, and I'm considering supplementing with this. Rainbow Resources has some sample pages here. Oops...looks like my link doesn't work...but you can go to Rainbow Resource & search "Challenging Word Problems."

HTH!

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We are Singapore users, and I also supplement with their word problems book.

It has taken my ds (now 10) quite a while to get the hang of word problems, but I treat them as problems we do together, and over time he has gotten a lot stronger in it. For us, it wasn't a skill that I could "teach" for a few days then he "had it", it has been something we have had to consistently work with over and over again. As mentioned, Singapore has a lot of word problems, even within the basic curriculum, so we start by tackling a problem together, move on to ds starting it but asking for confirmation as he goes along, to him doing it on his own. We still follow this pattern.

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One idea is to get a book that does story problems well. I love Singapore for that.

The other idea is to get out your beans, pennies, rocks, etc. and make up your own story problems. Show each step as you go:

1. Understand: What do you know? What do you want to know?

2. Plan: What should you do to solve the problem?

3. Work: Solve the problem?

Hers was U P S

U- understand rewrite the question in own words

P - Plan how are you going to solve this problem

S - Solve - Show work , child has to do this step in order to finish problem

SSM - sum plus sum more (adding)

SWA- some went away (subtracting)

BSD - bgger, smaller and difference (subtracting)

EGTA - equal groups taken apart (division)

EGPT - equal groups put together (multiply)

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I have always taught my children to substitute in numbers that they intuitively know the answers to if they can't figure out how to set up solving the problem.

So if the numbers are large, put in 1 or 2. If there are fractions, substitute in 1/2, etc. Usually once they "see" the problem with simple problems, they get that light-bulb moment. :)

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I found though that I needed to point out to ds that the textbook authors would eventually stop asking for the intermediate step and he would need to start checking knowing if an intermediate step was needed.

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