Last Updated on August 31, 2021 by Thinkster
How many times has your child grumbled and complained to you about math word problems?
Maybe they don’t get why they have to solve them and ask you, “What’s the point of this? When will I use this in real life?”
These sorts of questions tend to pop up more when asked to solve problems that seem a little far-fetched.
“Tom goes to the store and buys 50 bags of flour…”
“A watermelon weighs 100 pounds and is made of 99% water…”
Can you blame them?
Of course they’ll scratch their head and show resistance when the problem seems unrealistic and unimaginable!
While your child may not encounter an exact situation described in a math word problem, there’s an important reason they’re asked to solve it:
So that they develop strong analytical and critical thinking skills.
As we know, it’s incredibly important to develop thinking skills. Our parenting skills tips can help you nurture conceptual thinking skills so that your child becomes academically and professionally successful in the future!
How many times have you asked your child, “How was your day?”
And how many times have you gotten a less than grandiose reply?
Maybe just a “good!” or “fine!”
Instead of asking a question that gets you a one-word response, rephrase the question with the intention of opening up a discussion.
It helps them to pause and really think about the questions that you ask.
You can ask questions like, “What happened today that made you happy?” or “What did you have trouble with at school today?”
Check out some ideas on questions that you can ask your child to get them to talk more about their day.
You can also ask “What If” scenario questions or ask about your child’s hobbies and interests. Not only does it get them thinking, but it’s opening up a conversation that gets them excited! Here are some more ideas and questions to get your child thinking!
The goal is to frame questions carefully so that your child thinks through their response instead of spitting out a quick answer.
If you ask your child how to get to the park, they’ll likely give you a direct route —
Take a right on Green Street, left on Willow Road, and left on Spruce Run.
Now, ask your child how to get to the park if Willow Road is completely closed for construction work.
If they only thought about traveling one way — Green to Willow to Spruce — then they may not be quick to think flexibly and come up with an alternative route.
This is one example of why your child needs to be able to act and think flexibly — not only with street directions but with all processes and strategies!
The ability to do so demonstrates that your child has strong thinking skills and can think non-routinely and non-linearly.
As your child advances to higher levels of education and then to their future professional career, this is an incredibly important skill to have. Strong problem-solving skills is a trait that strong leaders, inventors, and entrepreneurs possess.
Math is wonderful for sharpening these skills and learning how to use different strategies when problem-solving.
Take the following word problem for example:
“Diana weighs 25 lbs more than she did last year. If she weighed 147 lbs last year, how much does she weigh now?”
Sure, you can solve it using a traditional algorithm (147 + 25), but there are other problem-solving strategies your child can use:
Your child can then manipulate and visualize equations and numbers once they learn the part-whole and break-up strategies.
This is an incredibly useful skill as math becomes more abstract and requires conceptual thinking skills – especially when your child moves to middle school Algebra and Geometry!
When your child takes a Language Arts or Social Studies test, they usually aren’t presented with only multiple-choice questions.
There are usually also short answer or essay questions.
This is because their teacher is tapping into their critical thinking and analysis skills to see how well your child really understands the material.
The same goes for math!
There are computational questions:
What is 3+4?
And critical thinking questions too:
Roger has 3 oranges, 8 carrots, and 4 pears. How many pieces of fruit does he have?
While the answer to both of these questions happens to be seven, the process and the strategies used to solve the word problem require critical thinking skills.
To help your child build analytical and critical thinking skills, provide practice outside of their schoolwork and work with them through a variety of question types.
Math is an excellent subject for expanding thinking skills since your child learns to manipulate and work flexibility with numbers and strategies.
Thinkster Math’s world-class curriculum and digital math worksheets are a great resource for building a variety of important skills! Learn more about how a math tutor customizes your child’s learning plan to improve and develop strong conceptual skills!
There are many ways that you can help your child with their conceptual thinking skills.
Our three parenting skills tips to get you started are to:
By developing these skills, your child learns how to think creatively and non-linearly. They can take questions and problems and propose solutions that others may not have considered.
Combining this with other skills – like organizational and communication – can steer your child on the path to academic and professional success.
Learn more about the types of skills your child should develop to become highly successful in life.
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