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story problems in math

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Make two lists:






The 'givens' are the things that you know from the story. Try to make each one into a math equation or inequality.


The questions are what you are trying to figure out. Try to make each of those into an equation involving the 'givens'.


That's a general method for organizing this kind of problem, and it takes a lot of practice and modelling to be able to do it well.

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My 10 year old daughter struggles so much with story problems. She can be working (and doing very well) with a concept, but as soon as it is placed in a story problem she simply can't see it. How can I help her with that without giving her the answer??



Sounds like she needs a lot more story problems. I agree that Singapore excels at presenting the material conceptually, then applying it continually in word problems. After awhile, there is a pattern and rhythm to the story problems, and the student starts to recognize the givens.


I would read the problem with her, and underline the givens. Draw pictures or diagrams that show the concept, and make it easier to see. Make similar problems to give her more practice. Make them exactly the same at first (just change the names/items/numbers) until she recognizes the pattern. Once she can do it, change things a little bit so that she is finding a different part. Or, make them multi-stepped, where she has to find one thing in order to find something else.


At first, you will be spoon-feeding the answers to her. But, with enough practice, she will be doing them on her own.

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I always try to focus on teaching my children the clues/language within the story problem that indicates which operation/s will be necessary to solve the problem. Many children never tune into those subtleties of language.


If it is a multi-step problem, then after reading outloud once to me, once to themselves, I ask them what "clues" they heard in the language that indicates the operations...did you read the word "what is the difference", the "total", "net profit", etc. Then we break it down by steps. I like Singapore for this because they word their problems carefully. Many math curriculums actually use such poor grammar and sentence structure (apparently the editors function under the impression that English skills need not apply to math texts) that the story problems are difficult to understand.



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My dd14 HATES word problems - she'll understand the concept just fine, be able to answer all the normal questions, apply what she learned to her OWN real life "word problems" (figuring out money stuff, working with recipes, etc)...but presented with some made up word problem in a math book and she loses the strings...


I don't push them. If she can do the math - and she can USE the math to solve those "word problems" that are around her everyday*... I'm happy. :)



* I once pointed out that she was solving "word problems" every day on her own...the glower that I got in return was hilarious. :p

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