# Question Detail

# 5th grade Math word problems!! HELP!!!

My students just do not read the problems carefully. I would like to have ideas that have helped you. I thought about a "riddle" a week designed to train them to read carefully. Any ideas where to find this? Any other suggestions?

- 3-5

9

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I try to give them real world examples of each concept, and then have them work another problem on their own, that is similar in nature to the word problem. If they can do those, they should develop confidence in solving the word problems. I don't have any simple math exercises anymore. All of the problems are either word problems are very shirt stories.

ericpollock@yahoo.com

I have noticed this as well with my students in many grade levels. One of the things I considered was how I personally felt about word problems when in school. I hated word problems because I didn't understand them. I just couldn't understand how to tell when you use what operation and what information was important. When I began teaching, I realized that many of my students probably did not know how either. We began explicitely breaking down the question looking for key words/clues that would help them identify what operation(s) they needed to do. We underlined or highlighted those. In addition, I have students underline the numbers that are necessary to use in the problem. It is a requirement in my class that they have to underline the numbers and the word clues in the question.

As a third grade teacher now, I have a math word wall in which one area is designated for key phrases in word problems by operation. I would probably do the same if I were teaching 5th grade again.

Have you ever tried the Notice and Wonder strategy?

With your guidance, it gives permission to the students the time to slow down, read and digest the problem without worrying about the question or answer.. You may even do only one or two problems a day. You're teaching then a thinking strategy that can be used with any problem.

You cover up the question and just have the students share what they notice about the problem. They can highlight, underline or circle key words or ideas. Sort of on the lines of ……what do you know? You may even do this on day one and delay the solving of the problem until the next day.

The next step is to wonder what the question might be asking.

They write down and share the possible questions. Then you reveal the actual question, discuss solutions and work together to solve the problem.

I love the 8-step model drawing that Char Forsten uses. She has books on the topic. It has been very successful at our school, and one of the great steps is that students have to read each part of the problem correctly, then do something with it.

I like to have the students go through a checklist of questions that helps to zero in on what to do:

1. What kind of number is being asked for by the problem? (This is usally easy to find, because it is at the end of the problem statement.) Is it people, money, distance, time, etc.

2. Look at each number stated in the problem and ask how it could be used to calculate the answer.

3. Is there information missing that the student must provide (such as the number of days in a week)?

4. Is there information that you don't need?

I also tell my students to sketch the problem. This usually helps to clarify the relationships between the objects in the problem, and leads to better identification of operations.

"The Problem With Math is English" is a great book that I read. The book helped me have better understanding on how to help my students read, write , and speak mathematics.

That is right. They don't read the problem. What I have them do is go through problem solving steps. I have them identify what the main problem is in addition to having them read with purpose to identify key vocabulary.

I would also add that many math teachers I meet at conferences also say the same thing. I asked them if there was no math in a problem, but simply a problem with an easy answer, could they give you the answer? Do the students have a critical thinking or reading "lapse", for lack of a better word. I actually give them short stories on math concepts ,without the math involved, to improve and increase their critical reading capacity.

ericpollock@yahoo.com

Do examples that you can solve in front of the class, modeling how to extract the important/relevant information from the problem and then use prior knowledge to solve the problem. Try to keep the problems short, simple, relevant, fun and real world if possible. Using students' names in problems can really add a personal touch that can grab them in and encourage them to keep reading. Good luck!