Math word problems have so many benefits for our children (and us too!). Here’s a look at why you should use math word problems in your homeschool, how to fit them into your day, what to look for in word problems, and book suggestions for math word problems.
Why you should use math word problems
Well-written math word problems require your child to call into action many mental processes including:
- Listen or read attentively to determine what the problem is asking.
- Determine if there is non-essential information provided.
- Determine which operation(s) to use.
- Draw a picture, make a list, or look for a pattern.
- Perform multiple calculations.
- Give the answer in a complete sentence.
In short, solving math word problems helps your child learn to think, solve problems, and speak math language.
How to fit math word problems into your day
You may be asking, “How am I supposed to add one more thing to my day?” Math word problems can be added to any curriculum in as little as five to ten minutes a day. We work word problems as part of our morning routine right after breakfast. Most days we work only a few word problems. Occasionally, a problem will lead to a great teaching opportunity that takes longer to complete. When that happens, I try to adjust the rest of the day or shorten the math lesson for the day.
What to look for in math word problems
Not all word problems are the same. Simply putting an equation into a written format is good practice, but does not encourage critical thinking. Look for the following characteristics of word problems:
- Uses one operation per problem for younger students graduating to multiple operations per problem for older students.
- Requires a single step for younger students and multiple steps for older students. (For example, adding two numbers for younger students and solving two or more equations for older students.)
- Includes non-essential information.
- Provides solutions to the problem including how to work each step. This is especially helpful for parents that need a refresher course on some of the finer points of math word problems.
Books suggestions for math word problems
I searched for several years to find math word problems to use in our homeschool. My search had been unsuccessful…until now. I finally found some books that I love! These books meet all of the criteria listed above. Do not be fooled by the grade levels listed on the books. The problems are challenging and make me think about the problem as well. I would encourage you to start your child in a grade or two below the level of their math curriculum. The extra practice will be helpful and they might learn a new strategy for solving word problems.
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Louis Benezet Articles
Rethink how you approach a math education.
- What are the essential elements to an elementary math education?
- How can you implement this in your home?
Read how Louis Benezet, a New England superintendent in the 1930's, implemented this approach in his schools and read about the amazing results he saw.