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Apply Comprehension Strategies for Math Word Problems


Mathematics ^21st Century Skills All Ages Strategy


Flexible Thinking Abstract Reasoning

Apply Comprehension Strategies for Math Word Problems

If your student is more inclined towards reading comprehension than mathematical thinking

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will use familiar reading comprehension techniques to tackle math word problems.
  2. Instruction and Practice: Encourage students who prefer ELA to think of word problems the way they are often asked to think about a story or book. Help them tackle the problem in four steps (next slide): predicting, clarifying, solving and summarizing.

Comprehension Strategies For Word Problems

  1. Predict. Have students read the problem and, before picking up a pencil, predict what they think the answer will look like (e.g. a whole number, a fraction, a label) and the type of operation they will need to solve it (e.g. graphing, multiplication, simultaneous equations).
  2. Clarify. Have students write a list all the information they need to solve the problem, including a column for things they know/have and one for things they need or seem to be missing. This could include numbers, variables, formulas, vocabulary, etc. They can make a third column of extraneous information in the problem that they do not need.
  3. Solve. Students decide on a strategy and solve the problem. This phase will likely feel much more doable now that they have gone through predicting and clarifying.
  4. Summarize. Students summarize the problem and their answer. By making this a full step rather than just giving the answer, students reflect on whether the answer makes sense and if they need to revisit an earlier stage.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Encouraging students to use familiar reading comprehension strategies in math class can lessen math anxiety and provide a reliable, structured approach to tackle what can feel like a daunting problem. The above approach relies on the practice of reciprocal teaching in ELA.