Math Word Problems : How to Help Hone Your Child’s Cognitive Skills

math word problems

Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching your child struggle with homework. The worst part is that you don’t know how to help them understand.

They stare at an open book or a blank page and you can see that they are getting upset. The frustration with themselves and their inability to grasp math concepts can be overwhelming. 

Math is famous for being the most hated subject for school children of all ages and throughout time. Even adults can still recall hating math when they were in school.

In particular, math word problems can cause many children to struggle. Often children have the necessary arithmetic skills, but still, they struggle to solve word problems. 

Ability to use math skills is a key pillar of education that can pave the road for success in school for years to come. Studies show that only 13% of students graduate high school on time if they fail a single math class.

Great news! You can help your child succeed in math no matter where your skill level is!

Keep reading below for tips and tricks to make it easier for you to walk your child through math word problems.

Why Is Math so Important Anyway?

Word problems are a major part of math curriculum in today’s schools. Kids learn math from kindergarten through high school and beyond. 

Standardized tests often focus on solving word problems and scores on these tests often get used as a key indicator for future success.

Unfortunately, the average standardized test math score for 4th graders is 239 out of 500! It is obvious that Math is a difficult subject across the board.

Some people find word problems scary. Yet, like any learned skill, sound logic, understanding of foundational concepts and lots of practice will improve problem-solving skills to perfection. Learning to solve math word problems is a hurdle that must be overcome because it is a foundational skill for life.

Consider this the beginning of a journey, and if your child is in having difficulties now there is no better time to begin. A great place to start with children of all ages who have difficulty with solving word problems is with first-grade level word problems.

Students with both math and general learning disabilities see more success from practicing word problems, as it exercises the areas of the brain that builds logical and reasoning skills. 

The Equation for Solving Math Word Problems

The ability to find solutions to word problems enhances skills that help students become better at solving advanced math problems. Students learn to convert written information into numerical, mathematical concepts. Then, they use a known problem-solving strategy to find the correct answer.

There are many kinds of word problems your student will need experience with. Identifying the type of a particular word problem becomes the first area to tutor when dealing with a complicated math problem.

The next step to solving word problems is learning to represent the data in the word problem in the most helpful way. Piecing together the information given is as critical as is learning to reject any information that is not necessary.  The use of distractors is a clever trick that is often used to confuse the student deliberately and is used to enhance reasoning skills.

A word problem may ask the student to fill in or draw a graph, figure, or symbolic representation of a solution. Practice and guided tutoring will help a child know what is being asked of them in every word problem.

The goal is to have a solution strategy – the ability to perform an analysis of the type of word problem presented in the most efficient way. Knowing what information is relevant and which information is not important is half the battle.

Students often need guidance from a parent, teacher, or tutor to help them gain confidence in math and to help them become more independent in the future.

Let’s Make This Easy!

For those students that have difficulty solving word problems, they may need specific instruction in different approaches like identification, understanding, and use of strategy. 

A computer is a powerful tool, and the internet gives access to all the information you need. Kids, in particular, find the computer-based lessons far more engaging than face to face classes.

Usually, the students who have trouble focusing and controlling themselves also have far more success on the computer as opposed to a classroom lecture.

Understanding math ideas and phrases is a learned skill that comes with practice, and the computer gives access to some wonderful tools for learning this skill.

Tutors will break the process down and make things easy. They are well versed in giving guidance through real-world problems and offering questions tailored to each student so they can strengthen blind spots and provide immediate correction before occasional errors become a learned behavior, which is much harder to correct. 

Testing areas of comprehension can help parents and teachers find specific areas of strengths and weaknesses of the student.

Does the child understand all the words, information, and what they are being asked to find? Once the student understands problems do they have a plan for what to do with that information?

Many of us might remember the guess and check method, but this is not a useful strategy at all. Persistence is key only if the student is capable of using the right strategies for solving the word problem. 

Working backward or eliminating possible solutions may take some time but math is often done this way even by the pros. Once the student finds a solution, they need practice checking the result.

Can we check the answer at a glance, or can you use the result or method for some other problem? Double checking your work will often cement the process in the child’s mind.

Study+ Practice= Success!

Now that you have some great tools in your arsenal, you can feel more confident about helping your child tackle and master math word problems.

Start with the word problems in your child’s math book, especially the ones assigned for homework.

If you feel like your child could use some extra practice after the ones in the book, find more word problems online or use a program like Thinkster Math!

Look for age and grade level math problems appropriate for your child. We have some excellent maths worksheets curated and separated by grade level, check them out today!

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